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AR   2020-08-07
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BLOG 2020

Beach
⦿ Imam Tawhidi

W76
NNSA
W76-2 thermonuclear warhead

Vanessa Hudgens
Vanessa Hudgens
Relax, it's still summer

 

2020 August 7

Flash — Bang — Gone

The New York Times

Nine states have nuclear weapons: The United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. President Trump and Vladimir Putin have the power to fire a nuclear barrage on their own. Both are working on modernizing their arsenals.
The US modernization effort is on track to surpass its $1.2 trillion price tag by 2050. Trump has not yet extended the New START accord, the only agreement still in place limiting American and Russian nuclear forces.

AR Make New START.

 □

Muslims — Coronavirus — England

Zamira Rahim

Last week, a few hours before the Islamic holy festival of Eid al-Adha, the UK government suddenly announced local lockdowns in areas in northern England where Covid-19 cases had spiked. The affected areas were all places with big Islamic populations.
Rabnawaz Akbar, Labour Party councillor in Manchester: "The timing .. focused people's minds [on Muslims]. [People think] it must be the Muslim community's fault. [The government is] highlighting a particular demographic. And people are angry."
Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley: "What I have seen in my constituency is that we have areas of our community .. that are just not taking the pandemic seriously enough .. If you look at the areas where we've seen rises in cases, the vast majority [are] BAME [Black, Asian, and minority ethnic] communities."
Whittaker explained: "Calderdale Council has not only identified a causal correlation between the locations of a high concentration of our ethnic Asian residents and that of Covid-19 infections, but has also formed the opinion that behaviour in these areas needs to be addressed .. I make no apology for my comments."
BAME people are more likely to live in overcrowded and urban areas, and to work in jobs that put them at risk of catching Covid-19.

AR On this issue, I back Whittaker.

 

2020 August 6

The Bomb

William J. Perry, Tom Z. Collina

The threats from The Bomb have grown worse. President Trump has sole authority to start nuclear war. He could launch nuclear weapons first in response to a false alarm.
The US Air Force is rebuilding land-based ballistic missiles for $100 billion. We are heading in the wrong direction. If we do not end The Bomb, The Bomb will end us.

Hiroshima + 75
Julian Borger

Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb onto Hiroshima, is now at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The plaque below it says:
"Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons."
All reference to the moral, political, and historical debate over the bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and then Nagasaki on 9 August has been left off.
US Navy fleet admiral and Combined Chiefs of Staff chair William Leahy:
"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan."
University of California in Santa Barbara professor emeritus Tsuyoshi Hasegawa:
"I would say that the Soviet entry into the war had a more decisive impact on the decision to surrender than the atomic bombs."

AR Defense technology is advanced enough to let us Ban The Bomb once and for all.

 

2020 August 5

Flunking Covid

CNN

President Donald Trump was still struggling to grasp the severity of the coronavirus pandemic during a task force meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
A source: "He still doesn't get it. He does not get it."
Trump's meeting with the task force in the Oval Office was his first in-depth meeting with the panel of his top health experts since April. As some members of the task force tried to stress the dire nature of the situation, Trump kept trying to change the subject.
The source: "He starts talking about something else."

AR The world's superpower? This is embarrassing.

 □

Bodging Covid

Rafael Behr

A thriving consumer economy and a functioning education system both shuffle bodies around in ways that facilitate contagion. The government response is to say people should avoid congregating indoors, unless it is to spend money.
Boris Johnson seems surprised to find that governing is beyond his capabilities. He tries to mask the strain in public with bluster. The giveaway is how much he relies on saying the challenge can be met with a sheer effort of will.
Johnson believes in both having cake and eating it. His impulse when bad news comes knocking is to hide behind the door. His approach is reinforced by Dominic Cummings, whose working assumption is that nearly everyone is stupider than him. Put this pair together in the Downing Street bunker, where even competent politicians are prone to paranoia under siege, and the result is an operation that is stingy with trust, lavish with blame, and instinctively dishonest.
Johnson came to the job of prime minister complacent about how hard it would be. Most of us understand the need sometimes to suppress selfish impulses in favour of duty toward others. Boris Johnson finds it challenging.

AR Get the pair out before they bodge Brexit.

 □

Ekpyrosis

Charlie Wood

Nearly 14 billion years ago, there was a big bang. In a brief moment, a burst of energy inflated the cosmos like a balloon. The inflation straightened out spacetime to give a flat geometry. Matter was scattered to make the cosmos look largely empty.
Paul Steinhardt and others have revived the idea of a cyclical or ekpyrotic universe that periodically grows and contracts. They find that no matter how bizarre the universe was before it contracted, the collapse erases its primordial wrinkles.
The equations of general relativity let the universal scale factor and the Hubble horizon evolve independently. Changing either of them can smooth and flatten the universe. Blowing up a balloon flattens its surface. In the cyclic universe, balloon deflation and a shrinking horizon smooth it.
Imagine a universe that expands for perhaps a trillion years, driven by a hypothetical field working like dark energy. When the field thins out, the cosmos starts to deflate. Over billions of years, the scale factor contracts gently, but the Hubble horizon shrinks to a microscopic size. The cosmos heats up and starts to bounce.
The microscopic horizon ensures smoothness and flatness. Whereas inflation blows up into a huge multiverse, slow contraction leaves a cosmos that has no beginning, no end, no primordial singularity, and no multiverse.

AR I'm beginning to like a cyclic model.

 

Beirut
⦿ AFP
Aftermath of a fire in a warehouse containing 2700 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut

SAP
BLOOMBERG
SAP boss Christian Klein says
Europe must do better
to compete in tech

DC, VP
FB
Vlad helps Dom shape Bo to
prep England for Day X

Steve Bray
imageplotter photography
Steve Bray: "We have to
take this campaign up
so many levels."

Beach
AR
A walk on the beach

ALW, TS
Taylor Swift
Andrew Lloyd Webber
with Taylor Swift in
December 2019

 

2020 August 4

China

Rachel Sylvester

Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin's trilogy The Three-Body Problem is a parable about the clash of civilizations between China and the West. It has been translated into 26 languages and sold over 9 million copies worldwide.
Liu: "To effectively contain a civilization's development and disarm it across such a long span of time, there is only one way: kill its science."
China already dominates the global drone market and 5G telecoms and is investing heavily in AI, robotics, and other emerging technologies. Last year, China was first to land a science probe on the far side of the Moon.
Liu: "China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the US during the golden age of science fiction."
In 1991, China spent $9 billion on research and development, Britain spent $18 billion, and America $161 billion. In 2018, China spent $554 billion, Britain $53 billion, and America $581 billion. Correcting for PPP, China leads.
Liu: "China is a futuristic country."

AR China gives me hope for the human future.

 □

Europe

Gideon Rachman

Without the UK, the EU is progressing toward a closer union. A stronger EU will be a better partner for America. The EU and the UK could form a pair like the United States and Canada.
In July, EU leaders agreed to borrow collectively on the financial markets. This happened because the UK was not there to veto it. The is a step toward closer political union.
Britain was blocking the progress of the European project. Now the project is regaining momentum. A balanced US alliance with the EU looks possible without the UK.

AR Brexit still puts Brits in a deep hole.

 

2020 August 3

SpaceX Brings Astronauts Home

Daniel Oberhaus

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely splashed down in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Sunday after a 2-month stay on the International Space Station. They were the first NASA astronauts to ride to orbit on a private spacecraft.
Behnken and Hurley landed in the ocean off Florida. They sheltered in the capsule until they were pulled from the water by a SpaceX ship. The capsule will be restored at a SpaceX facility in Florida and used again for another crewed mission next spring.
Once NASA has reviewed the mission data, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is expected to be certified for human spaceflight. SpaceX can begin shuttling astronauts to and from the space station from September, four astronauts at a time.
SpaceX has shown a private company can send people to space and bring them back home.

AR Well done Elon Musk.

 □

UK Chemical Industry Brexit Cost

Financial Times

Cornelius Group CEO Neville Prior says the bureaucratic blowback for his industry from the impact of Brexit next January keeps him awake at night.
The safety registrations of his chemicals are held in the Reach registration database run by the European Chemicals Agency (Echa) in Helsinki. From January 1, they will need to be re-registered with a new UK equivalent. For Prior, this is pain with no gain.
Registering a single chemical in the new UK Reach database could cost up to £300,000 if companies are required to buy letters of access to Echa. The new system will add more than £1 billion in costs to companies just to duplicate existing registrations.
Boris Johnson has ruled out associate membership of Echa. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister Rebecca Pow admitted there would be "significant cost and burden to industry" in complying with UK Reach.
Echa employs 600 people with an annual budget of €110 million. UK Reach will employ up to 50 staff with an annual budget of £13 million.

AR Bodger's Brexit is sabotaging European competiveness.

 □

Day X

Katrin Bennhold

Day X is when German social order collapses, requiring committed extremists to save themselves and rescue the nation.
Nordkreuz was one of the groups preparing for Day X. Its members planned to round up their political enemies, drive them off in trucks to a secret location, and shoot them. Their unofficial leader was Marko Gross, a police sniper and former parachutist.
Gross and his friends formed Nordkreuz in early 2016, prompted by the arrival in 2015 of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The German intelligence service was tipped off, and investigations began.
Over time, Nordkreuz morphed into a brotherhood preparing for Day X. Members began hoarding survivalist supplies, including food, gasoline, toiletries, radios, medicine, and more than 55,000 rounds of ammunition. They met at a safe house deep in the Pomeranian woods.
Authorities conducted raids on the homes of Nordkreuz members and uncovered weapons, ammunition, enemy lists, and a shopping list for Day X. In 2019, Gross was charged with illegal possession of weapons and given a 21-month suspended sentence.
Gross is a fan of Donald Trump and still expects Day X.

AR Dad's Army, Teutonic style.

 

2020 August 2

The Chosen One

Jeff Sharlet

President Trump intimates that Judgment Day is coming. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, he spoke of "illegals," hacking and raping and bludgeoning, "relentlessly beating a wonderful, beautiful high school teenager to death with a baseball bat and chopping the body apart with a machete." And that, he added, was only what he could reveal. There was more, he said, much, much more. Believe me.
Trump's timing is that of a Borscht Belt comedian. Only he tweaks the Jewish comic formula of funny because it's sad, sad because it's funny. With Trump, it's funny because it's mean.
Time for a joke: "Five years," Trumps says. He pauses, smirks. "Nine years, 13 years, 17 years, 21 years, 25 years, 29 years." Then the punch line: "When I leave office."
The crowd roars. "Now," Trump says, pointing to his cage full of reporters, "I'm only doing that to drive them totally crazy. That drives them crazy. Even joking about it!"
Suddenly Trump is not joking at all. "Deadly sanctuary cities," he announces, as if that's what he's been talking about all along. "These jurisdictions deliberately release dangerous, violent, criminal aliens out of their jails and directly onto your streets, where they are free to offend, where they are free to kill, where they are free to rape." Trump's hands are chopping. "Brutalized," chop! "Murdered," chop! "Hacking," chop! "Ripping out, in two cases, their hearts." All because Democrats gave "safe haven to those who commit violent sex crimes."
In Washington, following a gas processional, the president of the United States marches through the sterile aftermath to hold aloft a Bible, upside down, its red ribbon dangling along his wrist like a snake's tongue.

AR The long source text has a cumulative power.

 □

Yukuza Nukes

Julian Borger

UK defense secretary Ben Wallace wrote to the US Congress to support initial spending on the W93 warhead for Trident missiles.
The Trump administration aims to speed up work on the warhead and has put a $53 million request for design work in its 2021 budget.
The funding hangs in the balance. Congress is debating the need for the $14 billion W93 program. The US Navy already has two warheads to choose from for its Trident missiles.
UK-USA Yukuza — coordinates work on nuclear warheads. The current UK Trident warhead, the Holbrook, is very similar to the W76 warhead the US Navy has on its Trident missiles.
The W93 will have a much higher yield than the W76. The W76 and W88 have already been given multibillion-dollar upgrades.
The total cost of the US nuclear weapons modernization program is expected to be far in excess of $1 trillion.

AR At a time of budgetary emergency, this is obscene.

 □

Steve Bannon Dominic Cummings

Mark Townsend

Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon says of Boris Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings: "A brilliant guy. I think Cummings is very smart where he puts his efforts. What I like about him is he has the ability to focus on the main things."
SB: "Boris will adapt his policies to become more populist over time .. There is one choice: hard out, no deal."
Bannon, who also calls Tommy Robinson the backbone of Britain, began visiting the UK frequently in 2013 and meeting people like UKIP leader Nigel Farage and members of the Young Britons Foundation, a Tory madrasa for teaching the dark arts of politics.
SB: "Guys like Boris and Dominic Cummings .. were very important, but they were quite late to the party."

Revolutionary Communists
Andy Beckett

Today's Conservative government has adopted some of the sizzle of a defunct radical sect, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a tiny British party founded in 1978 and disbanded in 1997.
A former RCP member, Munira Mirza, is head of the Downing Street policy unit. Boris Johnson hired her in 2008 and made her a deputy mayor of London, and last year she co-authored his election manifesto.
Another RCP veteran, Claire Fox, was elected in 2019 as a Brexit party MEP. Last Friday, Boris nominated her for a peerage.

AR The Conservative party is now a Leninist party.

 

2020 August 1

Women

Sharon Moalem

Females have two X chromosomes, which gives them a survival advantage over men.
Mammalian females have two genetically different populations of cells in them. The two populations build their bodies during fetal life, and the cells with the X genes that work better outcompete the others. Males have just one copy of the X.
The X is rich in immune-related genes. A group of genes on the X encode a receptor called TLR7 that helps cells recognize the coronavirus. Women have two populations of immune cells, each one using a different version of TLR7 to do so. The coronavirus uses a protein called ACE2 to enter our cells, and the gene for ACE2 is on the X chromosome.
The female immune system is more aggressive than the male immune system. Estrogens stimulate the immune system, while testosterone inhibits it. But even before puberty, autoimmunity is still higher in females.
In both sexes, fetal thyroid gland immune cells usually self-destruct if they recognize other cells from the person's own body. Females, who have two cell populations, are more likely than males to fail at destroying all the self-recognizing cells. Female immune cells are more likely to recognize their own cells as foreign.
Many microbes invade and escape detection in the body because they resemble human cells. Females are better able to be able to discern them, because they keep cells that are more likely to attack things that resemble themselves. Women have higher rates of autoimmune diseases, but if it helps you survive covid-19, that's a benefit.
We need to stop treating men and women as if they are biologically the same.

AR Sobering reading for men.

 □

Folklore

Spencer Kornhaber

Taylor Swift sings of her grandfather on a 1942 battlefield, attending to a comrade bleeding out. By verse two, she's singing from a 2020 medical ward of plastic sheaths and labored breathing. The soldier and the medical worker, overburdened by horror, both dream of an epiphany.
On her album Folklore, Swift writes with a care and empathy that feel almost priestly. Her first seven albums unpacked her teenage diary and then litigated celebrity romances. But Folklore also has fictional stories, historical stories, personal stories, and even all three in the space of single songs.
Swift is an artist defined by clarity. Her writing is excellent, with surprising word choices, like when she writes of early love that "expires" rather than dies. One economical and vivid song welds brief anecdotes to big feminist themes.
The album includes a teenage love triangle trilogy, each sung from a different perspective. The final story first hits the ear as a tale of same-sex desire, but the play feels openhearted and thematically justified.
Folklore advertises itself as a revelation. One song compares the singer to a disco ball, spinning above a dance floor and reflecting the revelers back on themselves. That's an enchanting image.

AR Swift is a major artist.

 □

Symplectic Geometry

Kevin Hartnett

Symplectic geometry has grown to study geometric spaces with a symplectic structure.
The least structured spaces are just collections of connected points, such as a line in 1D and the surface of a ball in 2D. We can deform them without changing their topology.
Adding more structure to a space limits how we can deform it. We can add a metric structure to the surface of a ball, like grid lines on a globe, but inflating or indenting the ball will change it.
A symplectic structure provides an intermediate level of structure. For example, as a planet moves through space, it has position coordinates qj (for j = 1,2,3) in a 3D space. At each point in that space, we can assign 3 momentum coordinates pj (for j = 1,2,3) to give 6 coordinates in a 6D space.
This 6D space has a symplectic structure. At each point in the space we can draw 6 vectors for the q and p components. The space is a differentiable manifold with symplectic elements ω = dpj ∧ dqj that sum to invariant areas in planetary dynamics.
One way of defining 6D symplectic space is with 3 complex numbers a + bi. Their a and b parts correspond to the pj and qj in elements ω. For each point, the pj and qj vectors (for j = 1,2,3) make up its 3 complex coordinates in a 3D complex space.
Symplectic geometry has a wide range of connections in mathematics and physics.

AR Worth further study.

 


⦿ William Abranowicz/Architectural Digest
Kendall Jenner finds refuge in a serene Los Angeles home bathed in warm tones and organic textures.
 

37C



Boris Johnson nominates
his brother Jo Johnson
for elevation to the
House of Lords

UK coronavirus excess
deaths worst in Europe

Confirmed US coronavirus
fatalities so far:
150 000

Help!

 

2020 July 31

Mission to Mars: Perseverance

Kenneth Chang

NASA's Perseverance mission is headed to Mars. The Atlas 5 launcher rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday and put the spacecraft on a trajectory to arrive at Mars in February 2021.
The launch was largely flawless, but a couple of hiccups emerged. A few hours after launch, NASA was having some trouble communicating with the spacecraft. Then JPL engineers adjusted their dishes to lock onto the telemetry data.
As mission controllers looked through the telemetry, they learned that Perseverance had entered safe mode. NASA said part of the spacecraft was colder than expected while it traveled in Earth's shadow. Later it warmed up, and engineers are working to bring Perseverance back to normal.
Perseverance is a car-size wheeled robot and is headed to a crater named Jezero that was once a lake. Perseverance will search for evidence of past life that might have lived in the lake.

AR Let's hope for good news in 2021.

 □

Germany in Europe

Timothy Garton Ash

The other day, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was sitting on a beach in the summer of 2030 and looking back on how Germany had saved Europe.
The German chancellor had brokered a European recovery package after the Covid-19 crisis of 2020, with large grants and loans to help hard-hit south European economies, drawing on shared European borrowing. It had maintained constructive relations between the EU and post-Brexit Britain, helped the citizens of Poland and Hungary to defend liberal democracy, confounded Vladimir Putin by seriously committing to a common European energy policy, used the regulatory power of the EU to curb Facebook, shaped a common strategy towards China, and made a world-leading example of Europe's green new deal.
Germany can be the steady football midfielder who keeps the whole team together. Sometimes those midfielders are the true heroes of the team.

AR Again, let's hope.

 

2020 July 30

US Tech Titans

The Times

Members of Congress accuse the chief executives of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple of damaging US democracy and the US economy and operating like a private government.
Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai, and Tim Cook respond by emphasizing the positive sides of their companies.

AR Their oligarchy would be better than Trump rule.

 □

Brexit

Luke McGee

The UK transition period with the EU expires on December 31. The EU says the UK must commit to obey certain laws for continued free access to its single market. The UK says the EU is making unreasonable demands and not respecting its sovereignty.
Institute for Government researcher Georgina Wright: "The EU's focus is on economic recovery, the role of member states in EU decision making, climate, and the rule of law, not on the UK."
King's College London professor Anand Menon: "Certain loud Brexiteers might like to shout that Brussels had better brace itself for the UK to walk away, but in reality, it's going to hit the UK much harder than it will hit the EU."
The EU summit agreed €5 billion of contingency funds for a no-deal Brexit — a rounding error in an overall budget of €1.8 trillion. This shows where Brexit lies in EU priorities.

Eurotunnel Risk
Lisa O'Carroll

Next year, EU law will no longer be applicable to the part of the Eurotunnel under the jurisdiction of the UK. The EU wants the UK to accept a role for the European Court of Justice to keep the trains running through the tunnel.
France needs to negotiate a new bilateral deal with the UK. Experts say it will be hard to resolve future disputes between the EU and the UK without the ECJ.

AR The UK government is stark raving mad.

 □

Avoiding Dark Matter

Charlie Wood

A tweaked version of Einstein's theory of gravity can reproduce the cosmic microwave map of the early universe without appeal to dark matter.
The Lambda cold dark matter (ΛCDM) model agrees precisely with the CMB. A modified theory of gravity must explain the CMB temperature and polarization and the current distribution of galaxies.
Tom Złosnik and Constantinos Skordis add a new field to general relativity. On cosmic scales, it can shape the universe just as dark matter would. In a galaxy, it augments gravity just enough to hold the galaxy together.
Dark matter remains the simpler theory.

AR ΛCDM seems a fudge to me.

 

Saturn
NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), OPAL Team
Saturn image taken by Hubble Space Telescope at a distance of 1.35 Tm on July 4, 2020, during northern summer on Saturn.
The bright dots are the moons Mimas (right) and Enceladus (bottom).
 

Holidaymaker
⦿ Alex Zea
UK holidaymakers face new
UK restrictions: "No travel
is risk-free."

Taylor Swift
⦿ Beth Garrabrant
Taylor Swift

Portland
FB
Portland

Folklore
Taylor Swift
Folklore

 

2020 July 29

ITER Nuclear Fusion

Damian Carrington

The ITER nuclear fusion project has begun its 5-year assembly phase in France. The €20 billion project will fuse H to He as in the Sun to show that fusion power can be commercial.
The reactor will have a mass of 23 Gg. Almost 3 Gg of superconducting magnets will be connected by 200 km of superconducting cables, all kept at 4 K while the plasma is heated to 150 MK.
French president Emmanuel Macron launched the assembly phase, alongside senior figures from ITER members (EU, UK, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, USA).
ITER director-general Bernard Bigot: "Enabling the exclusive use of clean energy will be a miracle for our planet."

Brits Out
BBC News

The UK is a member of the ITER project but is set to fall out at the end of the Brexit transition, because the British government withdrew from the Euratom treaty as part of Brexit.

AR Another own goal from an inept HMG.

 

2020 July 28

US Stimulus Plan

Financial Times

Senate Republicans have a $1 trillion stimulus plan that cuts emergency unemployment benefits. House Democrats had approved a $3 trillion plan. Republicans say maintaining benefits at $600 a week discourages work and propose $200 a week.
Senate finance committee Democrat Ron Wyden: "The Republican proposal is a punch in the gut and a slap in the face for the 30 million Americans relying on lifeline unemployment insurance benefits. It adds insult to infection."

AR Save $400, lose the election.

 □

US Border Patrol

Ed Pilkington

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has always seen itself as a militarized force. Now its aspiration is being enabled by the Trump administration.
President Trump has made inner cities under Democratic control a running theme of his presidency. His dispatch of federal agents to Portland turns his American carnage rhetoric into reality.
The federal officers deployed in Portland were led by the border patrol tactical unit Bortac. Its agents are trained for SWAT-style raids on gangs smuggling immigrants or drugs across the US border.
The Trump administration has dispatched Bortac into the US interior to work alongside ICE officers. CBP rules say they can operate within 100 miles of any US border, covering 200 million Americans.
Bortac agents live in tight groups like the Navy SEALs and do military-style training. They see migrants — and even people in vehicles who look Latino and speak Spanish — as criminals.
National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd: "President Trump is the right candidate for the safety and security of this great nation."

AR For a chap with a hammer, all problems are nails.

 □

Booker Prize 2020

James Marriott

The vast majority of fiction is read by women. Nowadays 4 out of 5 novels are bought by women. The advantage enjoyed by male novelists has melted away.
Women's Prize for Fiction co-founder and agent Clare Alexander: "We can't see them. There's not an appetite from publishers and it's hard to get men noticed. Unless they're contenders for the Booker or a major prize, they don't have much of a platform."
Novelist Luke Brown: "I do bristle at the current use of straight white male as an insult because I come from a place where nearly half the town are white men and they don't really expect much from life. The idea that their voices should take a back seat is offensive to me because they've never really had a front seat."
Brown says women seem able to write more freely about sex than men: "If men dodge this because they're scared to what extent they're allowed to own the unpalatable aspects of their sexuality, they'll only have themselves to blame in that no one wants to publish or read them."
Brown says male novelists need to make their case: "People should be interested in the male novelist because men are still everywhere and it might be of interest to understand what they're thinking."
Alexander: "I've got to go and find the best men nobody's ever heard of."

AR ALBION

 

2020 July 27

We Germany

The Guardian

Germany is the most admired country in the world for the third year running. The annual Gallup poll gives Germany an approval rating of 44%, with the USA second at 33% and China third at 32%. The poll surveyed 1000 adults in each of 135 countries in 2019, before coronavirus struck.
Gallup editor Mohamed Younis: "Longtime German chancellor Angela Merkel, loved or hated, has been one of the most predictable leaders in highly uncertain times in both Europe and the global order."

AR I Germany too.

 □

Brexit Reality

Financial Times

Anyone looking into the details of the proclaimed economic advantages of Brexit will see that what is most on offer are rising costs and extra bureaucracy. Brexit will deliver for those who wanted a new immigration system controlled by the UK government.
The government has failed to come even close to demonstrating how Brexit will bolster the UK economy. The latest 206-page document on preparations details new paperwork and extra infrastructure: 215 million extra customs declarations, £7 billion in extra costs to businesses, and an extra 50 000 customs agents to handle the regulations.
The new freedom to strike trade deals will do little to raise GDP, but the restrictions on EU trade can only reduce UK exports to its largest market. A US trade deal will add 0.16% to the UK GDP and FTAs with Australia and New Zealand will add even less. Exit from the EU single market and customs union will knock 5% from GDP over the next 15 years.
The economic case for Brexit was tacked on relatively late to counter the arguments of the Remainers. Its hollowness is now being exposed. Leavers were sincere in many of their political beliefs about Brexit, but their economic arguments were a sham.

AR End the farce now.

 

2020 July 26

Monica Lewinsky Wins

Tom Lutz

"I have a joke" was trending on Twitter on Friday.
A user tweeted: "I have a Charles Manson joke and it kills."
Monica Lewinsky offered: "I have an intern joke and it .. nevermind."
By Saturday morning, her tweet had more than 350 000 likes.
"Monica wins the internet," tweeted Mia Farrow.
Lewinsky was a White House intern when Bill Clinton was president, they had an affair, and he was impeached. The investigation and trial featured excruciating detail about what they did.
POTUS 42 recently said his affair with her was something he did to "manage my anxieties": "It's not a defense, it's an explanation. It was awful. I feel terrible."
Lewinsky: "I felt like every layer of my skin and my identity were ripped off of me in 1998 and 1999 .. the shame sticks to you like tar."

AR We still love you, Monica.

 □

Poland vs Women

Reuters

Poland will take steps next week to withdraw from the Istanbul convention on violence against women.
The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) says the convention, which a centrist Polish government ratified in 2015, is disrespectful toward religion and requires teaching liberal social policies in schools.
PiS justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro: "It contains elements of an ideological nature, which we consider harmful."
Warsaw protester Marta Lempart: "The aim is to legalise domestic violence."

AR Resist such rollback from religion.

 □

The Russia Report

Carole Cadwalladr

Boris Johnson is a Russian asset. In the case of Russian interference in UK elections, and specifically the EU referendum, the best interests of both Johnson and Russia were served last week by disregarding the findings of the ISC report.
Internet connectivity has created a fundamental threat to UK sovereignty. The Russians stand accused of exploiting with disinformation and lies the same platform Dominic Cummings exploited in 2016. The ISC report demands a response.

AR The internet kills national sovereignty.

 □

Beefy Boris

Jörg Schindler

As a schoolboy, Boris Johnson was a star of the Eton Wall Game. He plunged into the opposing phalanx with verve and was regularly injured, but because he won more than he lost, he loved the game.
Around 40 years later, Johnson has ended a bruising first year as British prime minister. Just as he did at Eton's brick wall, he ran headfirst into anything and everything that stood in his way. But when it counted, he won.
As soon as he gained power, he plunged the UK into a constitutional crisis. He tried to disempower parliament by exploiting the queen, was called out by the supreme court, and got boxed in by the opposition. With outrageous luck, he then called new elections, won, and got Brexit done.
But then came a pandemic. He and his cabinet were infected one after the other. He says he is "fit as a butcher's dog" but he faces huge problems. The corona crisis has left the UK with one of the highest death rates in the world and plunged it into the worst recession in over 300 years.
Most Brits have lost confidence in Johnson. In terms of competence, leadership, sympathy, and listening to voters, Labour leader Keir Starmer is well ahead. Even diehard Tories, who almost worshiped their Boris until the pandemic began, increasingly doubt that he knows what he's doing. His big majority in parliament no longer looks invincible.
Boris has no one to blame but himself. He amputated the moderate wing of his party and united his government machine against him. The Downing Street brawler looks like the prime minister of England, leaving the Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish feeling left out.
To make matters worse, he is losing friends on the international stage. Still the United States remains, but his fan Donald Trump may soon be gone.
In 2019, Boris compared himself to the Incredible Hulk: "The angrier he gets, the stronger he gets."
He may need that anger.

AR I hope we oust him first.

 

2020 July 25

American Catastrophe

Roger Cohen

Germans speak of the American catastrophe. President Donald Trump provokes outrage in a cascade to blunt alarm. The playbook from the German fall of democracy in 1933 seems well in place.
Unmarked cars and camouflaged federal agents without identifying insignia were used to detain protesters in Portland. Chicago is now among several cities being targeted for further confrontation.
When paramilitary units work without insignia, accountability and democracy die. This sets the scene for November: Trump can declare a state of emergency if he does not like the election result.

AR Dump Trump in November.

 □

British Nightmare

Julia Horowitz

Six months ago, Boris Johnson celebrated Brexit by calling Britain the Superman of global trade.
Now, the UK risks losing its easy access to the huge EU common market, failing to strike a ground-breaking deal with the United States, and getting into a trade fight with China.
Trade experts fear this will leave the UK more isolated than it has been for decades as it fights an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Already on course for the deepest downturn of any major economy, the UK is locked in persistent uncertainty tied to Brexit.
Johnson and the ERGs made much of the ability of a "global Britain" liberated by Brexit to strike out and forge lucrative trade agreements on its own terms. But such game-changing trade deals haven't materialized.
The UK government has also failed to replicate many of the third-party trade deals it once enjoyed as an EU member. More than half of Britain's total trade could be disrupted as a result of Brexit.
The OECD predicts that economic output will shrink more in the UK this year than any other developed country. Britain lags behind Europe in its coronavirus recovery, and millions of jobs are at risk.
Deutsche Bank economist Sanjay Raja: "The Brexit endgame will likely determine how strong the economic recovery will be."

AR Boris: Abandon Brexit.

 

2020 July 24

Brexit: Still No Deal

Michel Barnier

By its current refusal to commit to the condition of open and fair competition, and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely. The UK is effectively asking for near total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters. That is simply unacceptable.
We need consistency or some sort of equivalence between our respective systems. We need to see what is ahead of us. The UK has not shown enough engagement and readiness to find solutions respecting the EU fundamental principles and interests.

AR Who expected better from Boris?

 □

The Scotch

Boris Johnson, 2004

The Scotch — What a verminous race!
Canny, pushy, chippy, they're all over the place.
Battening us off with false bonhomie
Polluting our stock, undermining our economy.


AR Then he was still a young shit.

 □

Quantum Gravity Buzz

Thomas Lewton

The world of gravitons only shows up at the Planck scale. But gravitons may create observable noise in gravitational wave detectors such as LIGO.
Recent calculations by Maulik Parikh, Frank Wilczek, and George Zahariade (PWZ) provide a solid theoretical footing to the idea of graviton noise. PWZ ask whether gravitational wave detectors can be sensitive enough to see gravitons.
Gravitational wave detectors have two masses separated by a distance. When a wave passes by, this distance increases and decreases as the wave stretches and squashes the space between the masses. Gravitons add a random jitter on top of the usual ripples. This is graviton noise.
Gravitational fields exist in different quantum states, depending on how they were created. Most often, a gravitational wave is produced in a coherent state. LIGO is tuned to search for these conventional gravitational waves.
PWZ found that a quantum state called a squeezed state produces a graviton noise that increases exponentially the more the gravitons are squeezed.
Alternatively, we might see graviton noise directly in the bubbling vacuum of spacetime, where virtual particles fleetingly pop in and out of existence, causing spacetime to warp around them and make spacetime foam.
If the holographic principle is true, the graviton lives on a lower-dimensional surface and encodes the force of gravity in higher-dimensional spacetime. Then the effects of quantum gravity can be amplified into the world of experiments like LIGO.
Erik Verlinde and Kathryn Zurek propose using LIGO or another sensitive interferometer to observe the bubbling vacuum that surrounds the instrument.
In a holographic universe, the interferometer sits in higher-dimensional space-time, which is closely wrapped in a lower-dimensional quantum surface. Adding up the tiny fluctuations across the surface creates a noise big enough to be detected.

AR Great work, guys.

 

China Mars launch
⦿ Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Tianwen-1 mission to Mars: Long March 5 launch, Wenchang Space Launch Center, China

Johnson, Temerko
TIMES
Johnson, Temerko

Russia
Red, white, and blue Brexit

Steve Bray

UvdL

Trump
NYT
Republicans break ranks

Duda family
FB
Andrzej Duda with wife Agata
and daughter Kinga

Mary Trump

 

2020 July 23

Tory Money

The Times

Conservative MPs Theresa Villiers and Mark Pritchard sit on the Intelligence and Security Committee: They and 14 government ministers received big donations from Lubov Chernukhin and Alexander Temerko, both British citizens born in the former Soviet Union. Villiers and Pritchard face calls to return the money or resign from the ISC.
Pritchard: "All donations to the Conservative Party and its MPs are received in good faith, after appropriate due diligence, from permissible sources."

Winnie the Pooh
John Crace

Boris Johnson either is unaware of his decline or believes it to be of little consequence.
For the last PMQs before the summer recess, Keir Starmer focused on the ISC report on Russian interference in UK politics. How come Johnson had managed to sit on something that had highlighted Russia as an urgent and immediate threat for 10 months?
The honest answer would have been that Johnson had actually intended to sit on the report for much longer but had been caught on the hop.
Instead Boris ignored the question and went on the attack: Starmer had failed to condemn the Salisbury novichok poisonings. Starmer pointed out that he had strongly supported government actions against the Russians on that occasion.
Yeah but no but you're still basically pro-Russian, said Boris. All this stuff about the ISC report was just sour grapes from "Islingtonian remoaners" who still hadn't got over the result of the 2016 referendum.
This was a Freudian slip. Labour under Starmer has never once tried to refight the Brexit vote. The only reason for Johnson to mention it was that fear of Russia influence in the referendum had led him to suppress the report.
A rattled Boris then burbled into a lame gag about "more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach" before declaring: "We are delivering as the people's government."
Tory MP Nusrat Ghani suggested Boris might spend his summer reading Winnie the Pooh.

AR Russian bear no Winnie.

 

2020 July 22

London Laundromat

The Times

UK intelligence agencies didn't bother to investigate how Russia disrupted the 2016 Brexit referendum. A Russian elite used its wealth to influence the British political system. A complacent establishment left the UK vulnerable to Russia.
The security services failed to investigate Russian interference in the referendum. Asked for evidence, MI5 provided six lines of text, much of it from public sources. No doubt the agencies were under political pressure not to investigate.
Russia may have interfered in the 2019 general election. Russian influence in UK political and financial systems is the new normal. Russian oligarchs use London to launder their wealth and their reputations.

No Quick Trade Deal
Financial Times

The UK government has abandoned hopes of reaching a US−UK trade deal ahead of the US presidential election.
An official: "Is it going to happen this year? Basically, no."

AR The end of a delusion.

 

2020 July 21

UK: The Russia Report

Financial Times

A long-awaited report by the Intelligence and Security Committee into Russian interference in UK politics concludes that Kremlin influence is the new normal. Successive governments welcomed Russian oligarchs and their money with open arms, letting them launder money through London and giving them access to UK companies and political figures. The UK intelligence services failed to take robust action to protect UK democracy.
Publication of the report was delayed and then postponed because of the 2019 election. MPs accused Boris Johnson of deliberately sitting on it.

Executive Summary
Intelligence and Security Committee (ed AR)

Russia considers the UK one of its top Western intelligence targets. The UK intelligence community must be given the tools it needs to tackle this very capable adversary.
Russian cyber capability poses an immediate and urgent threat to UK national security. A common international approach is needed in relation to offensive cyber. The UN has agreed that international law applies in cyberspace.
Russia spreads disinformation and seeks to influence political events in support of its underlying foreign policy objectives. The UK is clearly a target for Russian disinformation campaigns and political influence operations and must equip itself to counter such efforts.
The regulation of political advertising needs urgent review if it is to be fit for purpose in the age of widespread social media. HMG must seek to establish a protocol with the social media companies to ensure that they take covert hostile state use of their platforms seriously. It should name and shame those which fail to act.
The evidence appears to suggest that HMG had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes or any activity that has had a material impact on an election.
We have no post-referendum assessment of Russian attempts at interference. The UK intelligence community should produce an assessment of potential Russian interference in the EU referendum and publish an unclassified summary.
The UK has been viewed as a favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money. The UK welcomed Russian money, and few questions, if any, were asked about its provenance. The money was recycled through the London laundromat and invested in extending patronage and influence across the British establishment.
Russian influence in the UK is the new normal. A lot of Russians with very close links to Putin are well integrated and accepted in London. A large private industry has developed in the UK to service the needs of the Russian elite.
Russian intelligence and business are completely intertwined. Several members of the Russian elite who are closely linked to Putin are involved with charitable and/or political organisations in the UK, having donated to political parties, with a public profile which positions them to assist Russian influence operations. A number of members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state.
HMG aims to harden the UK financial and property markets from the proceeds of crime and to challenge any perception that the UK is a safe haven for illicit funds. The tension between its prosperity agenda and the need to protect national security has led to the current situation.
Russia currently poses a significant threat to the UK on a number of fronts. In responding to the threat, the UK partnership with the US is important. Diminishing the strength of NATO is a key aim of the Kremlin.

AR The UK has let Russia damage the EU.

 □

Trump vs US Cities

Michelle Goldberg

Oregon attorney general Ellen Rosenblum alleges that federal agents have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and bundle them into the vehicles.
The Trump administration says it will send a similar force of Border Patrol agents to other cities. The US military is reluctant to deploy against citizens and police officers are under local control, but Border Patrol agents are under federal authority.
Yale historian Timothy Snyder: "This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regimes, whether it's Franco's Spain or whether it's the Russian Empire."
House speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Trump and his storm troopers must be stopped."

AR This way lies a new civil war.

 □

EU Leaders Agree: €1.8 Trillion

Financial Times

EU leaders have struck a deal on a coronavirus recovery package. The heads of government agreed on a €750 billion package aimed at funding post-pandemic relief efforts in the EU. The core of the fund is €390 billion in grants to virus-hit member states.
The leaders also signed off on the next 7-year EU budget of just over €1 trillion. The frugal states still get the budget rebates agreed when the UK got a rebate. Instead of abolishing them after Brexit, the EU will increase them for the frugal states.

AR Seems a fair fudge.

 □

Greta Thunberg Wins €1 Million

Agence France-Presse

Greta Thunberg has been awarded the €1 million Gulbenkian prize for humanity for mobilizing younger generations for the cause of climate change and struggling to alter the status quo.
Thunberg: "That is more money than I can begin to imagine, but all the prize money will be donated, through my foundation, to different organizations and projects who are working to help people on the front line, affected by the climate crisis and ecological crisis."

AR Good for us all.

 

2020 July 20

Coronavirus: Oxford Vaccine Triggers Immune Response

BBC News

A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and triggers an immune response. Trials involving 1077 people showed the injection led to them making antibodies and T-cells that can fight coronavirus. The findings are hugely promising, but it is still too soon to know if this is enough to offer protection and larger trials are under way. The UK has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine.

AR Oxford has good scientists.

 □

EU Recovery Fund Impasse

Financial Times

EU leaders are still haggling over the size of the EU coronavirus recovery fund. A frugal alliance of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden say they want to scale back proposed grants from €450 billion to €350 billion, coupled with another €350 billion of loans, in a recovery package worth €700 billion.
The offer is a jump from the previous frugal position not to give grants under the recovery fund. But it got a cool response from states hit hard by the pandemic. France, Germany, Spain, and Italy want to ringfence the grants at no less than €400 billion.
In May, Paris and Berlin called on the European Commission to borrow €500 billion and hand out grants to assist stricken member states. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen later added an extra €250 billion of loans in a plan for a total package of €750 billion.
Spain and Italy will not accept plans to let finance ministers decide whether a member state deserves to keep receiving tranches of recovery aid. Poland and Hungary rejected a draft plan to require a qualified majority of member states to back cash sanctions but want a national veto.
A diplomat says negotiations are stuck and risk ending in failure.

AR Business as usual, then.

 

2020 July 19

Communism vs Capitalism

Matthew Syed

A historic battle is being waged between the Communist Party of China and the liberal democratic order of the West. This will be a battle over quantum computing, AI, and global influence. It is a battle the West might lose.
Decay has taken hold in the West. This is not Donald Trump, or the woeful response to the pandemic, or a million other scandals across the democratic world. It is not even western short-termism in contrast to Chinese strategic planning for 2050.
The decay is a rot so familiar we can no longer smell it. The last people to spot a system in decline are insiders. Outsiders are better placed to do so.
Xi Jinping knows the Chinese system is corrupt and riddled with contradictions. Politburo members think the time is ripe for global expansion not because they feel their own strength but because they see western weakness. They see epic polarization, surreal identity wars, and growing western contempt for western history and institutions.
Vladimir Putin in Russia sees it too. Western pundits say Russian meddling stems from the internal dynamics of Russia and its president. In fact, Putin sees a western order in decline.
We in the West no longer notice the legalized corruption, the revolving door between politics and business, the rules rigged to suit special interests. Russia and China are poking at a West that is decaying from within and losing international support.

AR Exercise: Prove that the great dialectic of history favors state communism over libertarian capitalism in the long term.

 □

Populism in Poland

Peter Conradi

Last week, Andrzej Duda was narrowly confirmed for a second term as president of Poland. His daughter Kinga, 25, said: "No one should be afraid to leave the house .. Let's respect each other."
The ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) aims to tighten its control over Poland. Its narrow electoral victory reflects a society split between young urban Civic Platform supporters and the old Catholic PiS voters in the provinces.
Former Civic Platform prime minister Radek Sikorski says the PiS models are the dictatorships of Francisco Franco in Spain, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal, and Viktor Orban in Hungary: "The objective is to create a national Catholic state in which the government can't lose an election."
PiS is a populist party. Its voters respect traditional Polish values and dislike EU policies. The European Commission has initiated Article 7 proceedings against Poland — a nuclear option.

AR Trump and Brexit all over again.

 

2020 July 18

Trump Will Get Destroyed

Anthony Scaramucci

In my 11 days in the White House, some people said my press conference was well handled and well executed. But President Trump was not in love with it, which indicated to me that I was going to end up having a problem with him.
One cabinet official said to me there are two things that, if he says to you, you know you're in trouble: one, you're getting more famous than me; or two, you're getting too much attention. That's like your near-death experience. He said to James Comey, you're getting more famous than me, and then a week later he was fired.
I found that when I was briefing him, I had to put pictures of him in the briefing. When I put the pictures in, it was a good sign, and when I didn't put the pictures in, you couldn't get him to focus on it. But even then he wouldn't listen to you anyway because he's so maniacally narcissistic.
It's not the first time I've been fired. I'm a little bit of a rogue. But being on the front page of a tabloid when your personal life is being destroyed and you're being disfigured as a human being and a lot of lies are being said about you — that is The Shawshank Redemption, because you have to go through that sewer pipe of humiliation and shame and you're being disfigured.
It made me a better person. It made me more psychologically aware. I turned on Trump in August 2019. I was loyal to him for two years after my departure. I said, OK, that's enough for me and I cannot be affiliated with this anymore, I'm not going to disavow my personal integrity and my life story to support this man. The guy stinks and he's a racist and he's an American nativist.
He's going to get destroyed. His ardent support is wilting. By November, there'll be over 200 000 people dead from the coronavirus. He's on a trajectory of a downward slope and he's subconsciously self-detonating. He's got his hand on the self-detonator now.

AR It takes a rat to know one.

 □

UK Back to Normal by Christmas?

The Guardian

The official figure for confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK is now almost 300 000 (England > 252K, Scotland > 18K, Wales > 16K, NI > 5K) and the death toll exceeds 45 000.
Boris Johnson says employers can let staff back to the office from 1 August. His proposal has not been endorsed by the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, and the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
Johnson: "It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas."

AR Normal by Christmas? Only if BJ rolls back Brexit.

 

2020 July 17

Historic US Calamity

CNN

The United States just recorded more than 77,000 new cases of Covid-19, the most ever in a single day. US deaths from the disease so far exceed 138,000. Florida, Texas, and Arizona have set new records for infections, and intensive care units and morgues have filled up.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany: "We believe this President has great approval in this country. His historic Covid response speaks for itself."

AR Dump Trump now.

 □

Individuals

Jordana Cepelewicz

Information theory can help us define individuals to reflect the relationships they have with their environment. So defined, individuals emerge as distinct patterns within larger schemes of behavior or activity. In biology, by contrast, an organism is said to be an entity that is physically separated from its environment, that has DNA and can replicate, and that is subject to natural selection.
Santa Fe Institute researcher David Krakauer aims to find an operational metric for quantifying individuality based on the intrinsic dynamics of a system. He and Jessica Flack use information theory to view an individual as an aggregate that preserves a measure of temporal integrity, propagating a near-maximal amount of information forward in time.
Krakauer and Flack say individuality can exist at any level of biological organization, can nest one individual inside another, and exists on a continuum that allows degrees of it. This approach can resolve definitional problems about, say, whether a virus is a living individual. The question becomes how living it is and how much individuality it has.
The Santa Fe team break information flows into parts and evaluate individuality based on how different combinations of environmental influences and internal dynamics can predict the future states of a system. They distinguish three types of individuality:
 The organismal individual is shaped by environmental factors but is strongly self-organizing, with nearly all its defining information internal, based on its own prior states.
 The colonial form involves a more complicated relationship between internal and external factors.
 The earliest life was driven almost entirely by the environment, like a tornado.
The information theory of individuality may inspire algorithms for running on streams of data collected over time to indicate the emergence of individuals. In this theory, individuals can be cells, tissues, organisms, colonies, companies, political institutions, online groups, artificial intelligence or cities, or even ideas or theories.

AR Promising.

 

UV Sun
ESA
UV view of Sun by European Space Agency Solar Orbiter Extreme Ultraviolet Imager from distance of 77 Gm (0.51 AU)
ESA Solar Orbiter Mission EUI Investigation at UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory co-principal investigator David Long:
"No images have been taken of the Sun at such a close distance before and the level of detail they provide is impressive."
 

BILD



⦿ AF
BILD owner Axel Springer, 1985

10 Downing Street
⦿ Andrew Parsons
Earth calling Mars

Alessandra Ambrosio
Alessandra Ambrosio
European high summer

Roger Stone
Roger Stone

 

2020 July 16

America vs China

Janan Ganesh

The United States is sliding into conflict against China. Politicians who can be counted on to dispute anything else agree on the need for a superpower duel. Joe Biden only faults President Donald Trump's China line for its softness.
A US-China struggle may be ordained. A surging power, an established one; a one-party state, a democracy: the raw materials for conflict are there. But the absence of dissenting voices means policy is not being refined through argument.
It is no longer clear if US grievances stop at China's trade practices or reach into its domestic treatment of its own people. An economic rivalry would be bad enough. One that pits governing philosophies against each other is much worse.
Dissent is becoming a political no-no. Even by the standards of an election year, the reluctance to say anything construable as soft is impossible to miss. On the China question, Americans are troublingly civilised.

AR Too few people in America understand the greater dialectic of history.

 □

Lewis Loses Whip

BBC News

Dr Julian Lewis MP has been kicked out of the Conservative parliamentary party after beating Chris Grayling to become chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
ISC statement: "The committee has unanimously agreed this morning that it will publish the Report on Russia prepared by its predecessor before the house rises for the summer recess."

Boris Fails
The Times

Boris Johnson's attempt to install Chris Grayling as head of the ISC has failed. Conservative former defence committee chair Julian Lewis took the chair of the ISC when all four of its non-Tory members voted for him.

Boris Fails Again
John Crace

As usual at prime minister's questions, Boris Johnson was unable to cope.
Keir Starmer asked about the report from the Academy of Medical Sciences that said the UK test-and-trace capacity should be expanded to cope with demand next winter: What assurance can he give that it will be fit for purpose by September?
Boris: "Our test and trace system is as good as, or better than, any other system anywhere in the world."
Starmer asked him if he'd read the report.
Boris: "I am of course aware of the report."
Starmer suggested Boris was in denial about the weakness of the UK response and wondered what he might like to say to the families of those who had died as a result of his negligence.
Boris responded by saying Starmer had "more briefs than Calvin Klein" — duh.

AR Dump Bodger now.

 □

BILD Zeitung

Julian Reichelt

BILD is the last national campfire experience in German life. It's the last thing that Germans can come together for. We're read by German professors, businessmen, and workers alike.
We're the voice of ordinary people. If we didn't exist, they would really think the whole system is against them. You have to feel their emotions. Journalism is basically about emotions.
I was born into a family of journalists. In our household, Axel Springer was a hero, and Heinrich Böll was an enemy. I'm a real tabloid editor. But when so many of your staff are female, and they're all very professional, it gets slightly awkward having to rank naked women with them every day.
BILD was right about the three major questions of postwar German life. We backed Israel to the hilt, we backed the USA to the hilt, and we were convinced that German reunification could work.
The press has created this elaborate mythology around Angela Merkel. They say she's a savage wit in private and she's fantastically clever. She's just capable of identifying the direction of the prevailing wind. But we want nothing to do with the imbeciles of the AfD. The way to destroy them is to make room for their voters in what used to be the political mainstream of this country.
The fundamental German ideal of freedom is that you can do what you want, within the rules. The speed limit interferes with that. There are too many Germans now waking up to find that if they eat meat and love their car, they're suddenly Nazis.
The German left speak of their fellow citizens as criminals, committing crimes against future generations. They want to bring the German car industry to a screeching halt, freeze rents in Berlin, starve the economy, and keep Germany from doing anything in the world.
President Trump has shown the future needn't be dictated by Green parties and child protesters.
BILD has the power to destroy. That's its most valuable weapon. I wouldn't sacrifice it for anything.

AR BILD is like all the British tabloids rolled into one.

 

2020 July 15

America vs China

Richard Lloyd Parry

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo accuses China of "intimidation, bullying, and claims of maritime empire" in the South China Sea. His statement reflects new shows of force in the region and adds to a growing mood of confrontation between Washington and Beijing.
Trade worth $5 trillion passes every year through the South China Sea, including oil for Japan and South Korea. The neighbouring states claim hundreds of reefs and small islands in the sea. Since 2014, China has concreted over some of them to build military bases.
Washington is standing up to China on a range of issues. Beijing has raised tensions all around by clashing with India on their disputed border, imposing a new national security law on Hong Kong, and dispatching ships to raise tensions with neighbouring states.

AR Try calm and patient dialog.

 □

EU Tax Harmonization

Financial Times

Tax justice is a priority for the German presidency of the European Council. The German government wants to press ahead with implementing minimum taxation in the EU and to target unfair corporate tax regimes in EU member states.
The European Commission is exploring ways to reduce the ability of multinationals to exploit advantageous corporate tax schemes. The move would require the backing of a qualified majority of the EU27 member states and approval by the European Parliament.
Tax avoidance by multinationals has shot up the political agenda in the wake of the pandemic as governments around the world spend billions to kick-start their economies. The commission will also revive its plans for a digital services tax on big tech companies.
The EU has often tried to clamp down on aggressive tax planning schemes. It will explore how to get its proposals approved by qualified majority instead of unanimity. It can use Article 116 of the EU treaty to correct unfair tax schemes.

AR The UK needs this discipline too.

 □

Brexit Lost Friends

Rafael Behr

Britain is leaving the EU. The UK government is spending £93 million on a campaign with the slogan CHECK, CHANGE, GO.
The UK government has narrowed the scope of talks with the EU to trade. All the rest is off the table. Now Boris Johnson is stuck because his trade policy is a blank sheet of paper and Donald Trump is holding the pen.
As an EU member, Britain had let the EU use the size of the single market as leverage in trade talks. A UK seat at the WTO is no substitute for losing influence as one of the big three EU members.
The UK is sliding into a void. The national interest requires a strategic partnership with the EU.

AR Bodger has lost the plot. His first duty, as Winston Churchill put it, is to "Keep buggering on" (KBO) and not to hide behind Leninist slogans.

 

2020 July 14

Failing Grayling: Really?

Rachel Sylvester

Boris Johnson has made Chris Grayling chairman of the intelligence and security committee ISC. The appointment has been greeted with ridicule in parliament and raised eyebrows in Whitehall. As a cabinet minister, Grayling committed blunders said to have squandered £2.7 billion of public money.
The ISC is a powerful committee with an important constitutional role overseeing the most sensitive activities of the state. Its members have privileged access to classified information. Their job is to ensure that the correct balance is maintained between civil liberties and national security.
Former Foreign Office head Lord Ricketts says a strong ISC that is willing to embarrass the government if necessary is essential to retain public trust in the intelligence community. Downing Street has already delayed publication of an ISC report into Russian interference in UK politics.

AR Publish the report now.

 □

Cummings Capitalism

Lloyd Hardy

Dominic Cummings is furthering far-right libertarian goals in the UK. His rich backers have bet big against the UK economy, so he must stay in post to deliver a no-deal Brexit.
Boris Johnson brought Cummings into Downing Street to get Brexit done. The billionaire hedge fund managers who paid for the Vote Leave campaign want the UK to crash out of the EU because they can profit in a deregulated UK economy.
Sir Paul Marshall co-owns Marshall Wallace, which manages $39 billion in assets. His company has made £50 million by betting against the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. He convinced Michael Gove to lead Vote Leave in 2016 and personally donated £100,000 to the campaign. Gove recruited Cummings to deliver Brexit.
Most of the funding for Vote Leave came from hedge fund managers betting against the UK economy. Crispin Odey invested £100,000 in Vote Leave and reaped £220 million in profit by hedging against the UK.
Odey also helped Jacob Rees-Mogg to set up his own hedge fund, Somerset Capital, and to move assets to Dublin to avoid losses from Brexit. He provided financial services at cost to Somerset Capital and funded Rees-Mogg's election campaign.
Hedge fund managers are extremely powerful and influential. The top 400 companies manage $65 trillion in assets. Total world economic output is only about $80 trillion.
Betting against the UK is not the main reason why these managers funded Vote Leave and a no-deal Brexit. EU regulations safeguard the UK economy against a repeat of the 2008 financial market crash by requiring that EU member states adhere to safe practices when providing credit.
Speculators can only be free again to make unsafe bets as they did before 2008 if the UK leaves the EU and the City of London goes back to its old ways with deregulated financial services.
Johnson, Cummings, Gove, and Rees-Mogg are part of the UK government and have a duty to protect the UK economy. Instead, they are helping financiers to remove the safety bars put in place after the 2008 financial crisis.
Cummings is working in government to liberate hedge funds, so $65 trillion says he stays in Westminster and continues hacking the political system until a no-deal Brexit that circumvents EU financial regulations is delivered.
Cummings appears to be working for the libertarian goals of no taxes, no health service, no minimum wage, no sick leave, no disability support, no welfare system, no police, no foreign aid, and no financial regulation in the UK.

AR The source text for this looked a mess.

 

2020 July 13

American Horror

Charles M. Blow

Donald Trump's politicization of the coronavirus has resulted in a new surge of cases: America has now reported 3.2 million cases and has tallied nearly 135,000 deaths.
The Washington Post: "Trump often launches into a monologue placing himself at the center of the nation's turmoil. The president has cast himself in the starring role of the blameless victim — of a deadly pandemic, of a stalled economy, of deep-seated racial unrest, all of which happened to him rather than the country."
This is the America we now live in. Sales workers face customers who refuse to wear masks inside stores. We are living in a horror film starring Donald Trump.

AR We all are, worldwide.

 □

Polish Drama

The Guardian

Poland's incumbent president Andrzej Duda has been elected to a new term of office. He won 51.2% of the vote, with almost all the ballots counted.
Liberal challenger Rafał Trzaskowski took 48.8% of the vote. He conceded defeat and tweeted: "May this term really be different."
Both camps pitched the election as a battle for the future of Poland. Duda promised another term backing the agenda of the ruling populist party and pledged to defend family values at the expense of LGBT rights.
Poland has had 37,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,600 deaths. Voters were required to wear masks and gloves and maintain social distancing.

AR Another problem for the EU to handle.

 

2020 July 12

Prosecution of Roger Stone

Robert S. Mueller III

I feel compelled to respond to claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives improper.
The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Roger Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. We made every decision in his case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law. The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity.
We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel, Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its activities. The investigation did establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. It also established that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.
When a subject lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of government efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.

AR Senator Mitt Romney: "Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president."

 □

Gravity

Claudia de Rham

General relativity paints space and time as a flexible entity called spacetime. Quantum theory shows that quantum fields can form waves and propagate through space and that we can also think of these waves as particles.
Each fundamental force has its quantum field and one or more bosons. The mass of a boson is inversely proportional to the range of the force. In a complete quantum theory of gravity, spacetime is a quantum field and waves in it have a boson, the graviton.
To explain the long range of gravity, the graviton must be either massless or very light. If gravitons have no mass, then they must travel at c, the speed of light. If they have mass, they can travel at different speeds.
But if gravitons have mass, they come in different varieties, each with different properties, and one of them a ghost particle with negative energy. These ghosts would quickly erase all order in the universe, so gravitons can't have mass.
My colleagues and I have found a way in 4D spacetime to describe massive gravitons in such a way that they don't produce ghosts. Massive gravitons would increase the speed of the Moon in its orbit around the Earth by less than 1 fm/s.
But massive gravitational waves would generally travel at less than speed c, with refraction effects depending on frequency to form gravitational rainbows. LIGO has detected no sign that gravitational waves form rainbows.

AR Rainbows might be nice, but I'm skeptical.

 

Beach
AR
Poole beach, Sunday morning

Spitfires
UNPIXS
British self-applause again:
Spits fly by for Vera Lynn on
80th anniversary of start of
Battle of Britain

cancel

Perfidious Albion

Lauren Cohan
⦿ Lauren Cohan

Science

Rishi Sunak
TIMES
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak and
his wife Akshata will dine in a
London restaurant today

Prince Andrew
⦿ Tim Graham
HRH Prince Andrew with
Ghislaine Maxwell: Did she
pimp for Jeffrey Epstein?
And will she rat on
Randy Andy?

 

2020 July 11

Brexit Bottleneck

The Guardian

The UK government has purchased 11 hectares of land 30 km from Dover to site a new Brexit customs clearance centre for the 10,000 trucks coming through from Calais every day. Work will begin on fencing off the Ashford site on Monday. The local council were given only a few hours' notice that the land is now in public ownership.
Parliamentary undersecretary of state for transport Rachel Maclean: "The Department of Transport has purchased the site known as 'MOJO' .. anticipated to form part of the Department's strategy to minimise potential disruption at Kent ports for the end of the transition period."

AR MOJO makes about as much sense as the Berlin Wall did. Better to build a 6-lane highway bridge over the Channel.

 □

Brexit Bolshevik

James Garrington

Dominic Cummings barely spoke Russian and had no real knowledge of Russian business practice, but he moved to Russia to "set up an airline" in the middle of nowhere. It was not a success, but by the time he returned to the UK he had made a number of high-level contacts in the Putin regime. He then ran the Vote Leave campaign.
Despite failing his Civil Service entry exams, Cummings now works in 10 Downing Street as Boris Johnson's chief special adviser. He has cut through the process to gain top security clearance and will visit secret and secure military sites. He says he plans to strip back UK defence capability.

AR The UK would be better off with a military coup to get BoJo and his Leninist parasite out of government.

 

2020 July 10

China and America

Zhou Jin

Chinese state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi says China and the US should jointly explore ways for peaceful coexistence and release more positive energy.
Wang suggests China and the US compile three lists that outline issues they could work on, detail disputed issues to resolve through dialog, and identify the tough issues they disagree on. He says they should manage the tough disputes and minimize their damage to bilateral relations.
Vice-foreign minister Le Yucheng said the trend toward China-US cooperation is unstoppable and urged the US to get relations with China back on track. He said some Americans are portraying China as an adversary or an enemy, seeking to frustrate and contain China's development, and impeding interaction between China and the US.
Le said China does not intend to challenge or replace or confront the US. But while the US encircles and smears China around the world and meddles in China's domestic affairs, it should not demand that China show understanding and support for the US in bilateral and global affairs.
Wang: "As long as the US is ready, we can restore and restart the dialog mechanisms at all levels and in all areas. Only communication can dispel falsehoods, and only dialogue can prevent miscalculation."

AR Note the reasonable and positive tone.

 

2020 July 9

Justice and Open Debate

Elliot Ackerman et al. (153 names)

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform .. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.
.. Donald Trump .. represents a real threat to democracy ..
The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom .. [We] need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes .. If we won't defend [it], we shouldn't expect the public or the state to defend it for us.

Cancel Culture Is Orwellian
Steven Pinker

Orwellian language has infused the cancel culture. Disagreeing is called punching down or silencing or drowning out. It doesn't matter what anyone says, you can always accuse them of having dog whistles of your own invention.
The data seems to suggest that there is racial bias in harassment by police in frisking and arrests but not in shootings. However, that clashes with the narratives that police shootings are a result of racism. It's considered an outrage to cite that finding.
A large number of people have been appalled at the firings, the cancelations, and the state of oppression, but in an atmosphere in which you can be canceled for protesting a cancelation it's quite possible for a majority of people to be silenced. A minority view can become entrenched. Breaking the spiral of silence can point something out that a large number of people believe but have been cowed into acquiescence.
Societies can get locked into a circle of mutual, pre-emptive denunciation: You denounce lest you be denounced. You prove that you're on the right side of the moral crusade by denouncing those on the wrong side before you yourself get denounced.
There's an atmosphere like The Sopranos: "Nice career you've got there. It would be a real shame if something happened to it."

AR The danger is real: We can't appease every minority.

 □

UK Mini Budget

The Times

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pumped another £30 billion into the UK economy yesterday. His new package of tax breaks, consumer discounts, and wage subsidies brings the total to more than £188 billion for nursing the economy through the crisis. At 9.4% of GDP, that far exceeds other Whitehall budgets. The Treasury has injected a further £122 billion as loans and deferred taxes into the economy during the crisis, for a total so far of £310 billion. Sunak warned MPs that more would be needed.

The Wrong Economy
Janet Street-Porter

Dishi Rishi can deliver a summer economic statement and make it sound like he's giving away thousands of cash prizes to lucky winners on the Lottery. But if saving our economy relies on bribing us all to going back to buying throwaway fashion, half-price Nando's meals, and overpriced houses from each other, maybe we have the wrong kind of economy.

AR Sure we do, but let's rescue each other first.

 

2020 July 8

Germany Merkel

Anna Sauerbrey

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is on her way out. The pandemic is likely to be her last great challenge. It could also seal her legacy.
After defeats in regional elections in late 2018, Merkel said she would not run again in 2021 and stepped down as head of the CDU. Now Germany has contained the pandemic, 4 in 5 Germans say she is doing her job well, and the CDU is back on top.
When the virus hit, neither Merkel nor the federal government were technically in charge. Most of the relevant powers lay with the 16 federal states. But the chancellor took the lead, coordinating the state heads, pushing for nationwide regulations, and convening top scientists.
Merkel quickly grasped the severity of the situation. In late February, she pushed for a nationwide lockdown. On March 18, she spoke directly and frankly to the German people on TV and reached the hearts and minds of German citizens.
She acted decisively at the European level, too. On May 18, Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron of France proposed that the European Commission should borrow €500 billion from the financial markets to help member states in need.
Merkel: "When you're in politics, you just have to adjust to new realities and situations. That's our job."

AR The best national leader in the world.

 □

Spooky Action at a Distance

George Musser

The laws of physics have traditionally taken the existence of space as a given. Today we know that the universe has more to it than things situated within space. Nonlocal phenomena have no place in space. They hint at a level of reality deeper than space, where the concept of distance ceases to apply. The building blocks cannot presume space if they are to explain it. They must have neither size nor location. They are everywhere and nowhere.

AR Math is full of such things.

 

2020 July 7

Europe and China

Financial Times

Angela Merkel is facing criticism in Germany for her strategic partnership with China.
Bundestag foreign affairs committee head Norbert Röttgen: "What the German government said about Hong Kong was the absolute minimum, and it just wasn't enough."
EU parliamentarians say China's imposition of the national security law risks undermining the autonomy of Hong Kong.
Merkel seeks dialog with China on the basis of mutual respect and a relationship of trust. She says it is in the European interest to work together with Beijing on fighting climate change and developing relations with Africa.
SDU foreign policy spokesman Nils Schmid: "Merkel's China policy is behind the times."
Germany has good economic relations with China, with trade of €200 billion in 2018.

AR I'm on Merkel's side here.

 □

Patriotism

George Kateb

Patriotism is a moral mistake and an intellectual mistake.
Love of country is thought to be natural, like love of family. But you don't have to say you love a country. You can love certain principles that anyone can adopt, and you can say the country is good because it is built on them.
A patriot thinks this country is mine, so it has to be good. That sets the country above its principles. A philosopher can love principles directly.
Plato defends treating your country as if it were your parents. But when the Greeks gave their lives to the city, they were not doing it for their parent city but because that was part of their masculinity.
Kant said language and religion are sources of human differentiation. He believed in an international federation of republics. Each republic would have its own constitution, built on the same principles.

AR Philosophers and scientists rise above languages and religions.

 

2020 July 6

Coronavirus and Citizenship

Martin Wolf

A constitutional democracy without a thriving middle class can turn into a plutocracy, a demagogy, or a tyranny. Western democracies are in danger.
Capitalism is rigged in favor of finance. Companies aim to maximize shareholder value, competition is low, tax avoidance is high, and technological change increases inequality.
The decline of manufacturing jobs has left industrial regions behind. Donald Trump and Boris Johnson came to power by wooing the left behind.
The coronavirus shutdown
 favors old over young, men over women, and rich over poor
 leads to vast fiscal spending and big debts to pay
 highlights the power of the state
The first concern of democratic states is the welfare of all their citizens. A state needs a vigorous middle class and a safety net for everyone.

AR The state is the shepherd, the peeps are sheep.

 □

Lingerie Liberation

Emine Saner

Back home after a shopping trip, university lecturer Louise Kilburn realised she wasn't wearing a bra: "I'd completely forgotten to put it on."
Long before the lockdown began, she says: "The first thing I did when returning home was to rid myself of the constraints of my underwired bra, as soon as I got into the hallway. There is no greater liberation."
Working from home has been a chance to do away with uncomfortable and unnecessary underwear. Local authority councillor Emma Roddick stopped wearing a bra early on: "Now I put one on, I think: I want this off, this is horrible."
There may be legitimate health reasons for wearing a bra. But for many women, the bra deforms the shape of breasts and restricts their natural movement merely to mask the nipples.
Actor Alison Harris on not wearing a bra: "It feels more freeing. It's definitely a comfort thing."

AR Comfort wins.

 

2020 July 5

Socializing Success

Mariana Mazzucato

When the economy is in crisis, we turn to governments for help. But when the economy is flourishing, we ignore them and let corporations take the rewards. We socialize risks but privatize rewards.
The coronavirus crisis offers a chance to change this dynamic. Confusion of price with value has propelled inequality and warped the role of the public sector. A public wealth fund with a citizens' dividend would transform government intervention and create a more equitable economy.
Government grants and loans should come with conditions to align corporate behavior with societal goals. Work should be properly remunerated, and the rewards distributed more equitably.

AR At present, governments pay rich people with profits and punish poor people with taxes.

 □

Fiction and Responsibility

Esther Allen

Fiction that claims to be based on history has responsibilities to real people and their lives, places they inhabit, and truth. At a time when systematic disinformation campaigns are abetting the rise of authoritarian governments the world over, it might be unwise to discard all concepts of boundaries or dividing lines between the imaginative freedom of literary fiction and distortion or falsehood.
Successful works of fiction tend to handle history with great care, particularly where real individuals are concerned. They call their protagonists by their real names and adhere, for the most part, to the known record of their lives. Portraying the living is a more delicate question.

AR ALBION

 

2020 Independence Day

Mount Rushmore Address

Donald Trump

Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.
In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished.
Make no mistake, this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American revolution. They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced. We stand tall, we stand proud, and we only kneel before almighty God.

AR Some US voters will buy this.

 □

Bundeswehr Naziproblem

Konstantin von Hammerstein

Ein Unteroffizier sagt: "Alle Juden müssten vergast werden." Er wird aus der Bundeswehr entlassen. Das Verteidigungsministerium braucht 33 Seiten, um alle rechtsextremen Bundeswehrvorfälle des vergangenen Jahres aufzulisten.
Rechtsextremismus und -terrorismus sind die "größte Bedrohung für die Sicherheit in Deutschland", warnt Verfassungsschutzpräsident Thomas Haldenwang.
Man muss sich die Verbreitung des Rechtsextremismus in der Bundeswehr so vorstellen wie die Corona-Pandemie. Die meisten Soldaten halten Abstand, aber es gibt braune Hotspots. Sie müssen mit allen Mitteln unter Kontrolle gehalten werden.
Anders als bei der Corona-Pandemie wird weder Herdenimmunität noch Impfstoff die Bundeswehr auf Dauer schützen. Nur eines hilft: permanente demokratische Wachsamkeit.

AR So eine Pandemie ist eher in Amerika zu befürchten.

 □

Britain and Covid-19

Martin Fletcher

On 31 January, Boris Johnson celebrated Brexit. The first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were found in York.
On 3 February, Johnson delivered a speech in London: "We are starting to hear .. there is a risk that new diseases .. will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational."
..
On 3 June, Johnson told MPs: "Very proud of our record. If you look at what we have achieved so far, it is very considerable."
By July, Britain had the highest recorded coronavirus death toll in Europe, and the third highest in the world, with roughly 43 000 confirmed deaths and some 65 000 excess deaths, of which around 300 were health workers.
Former chief scientific adviser to the government David King: "There has been a series of really dreadful mistakes by this government that has led to a vast number of people dying and they need not have died."

AR A shameful record.

 □

The Magnetic Universe

Natalie Wolchover

Astronomers are finding magnetic fields in ever more remote regions of the cosmos. Magnetic fields surround Earth, the Sun, galaxies, galaxy clusters, and 10 Zm filaments of the cosmic web.
Primordial magnetism may be everywhere, even in the voids of the cosmic web, and have seeded the stronger fields in galaxies and clusters. It might even explain the Hubble tension — the problem that the universe seems to be expanding faster than expected.
As charged particles pass through a magnetic field, their paths twist and they emit synchrotron radiation. LOFAR, an array of 20 000 low-frequency radio antennas spread across Europe, has seen a synchrotron glow from cosmic filaments.
Magnetic fields may have arisen during the electroweak phase transition moments ABB, or later, when protons formed. Or perhaps a turbulent plasma of protons and electrons spun up the first magnetic fields. Space may have become magnetized during cosmic inflation.
We can test such theories by studying the pattern of magnetic fields in the emptiest voids of intergalactic space. A magnetic field rotates the polarization of light passing through it. This rotation depends on the strength of the magnetic field and the frequency of the light. The Square Kilometer Array due to start up in 2027 should detect it.
We have evidence of magnetic fields between us and blazars, which emit gamma rays and are powered by supermassive black holes. The gamma rays can collide with CMB and create electron-positron pairs, which decay into lower-energy gamma rays. If a blazar shines through a magnetized void, charged particles are deflected and we no longer see the low-energy gamma rays. A faint halo around blazars behind voids suggests enough primordial magnetism to resolve the Hubble tension.
Weak magnetic fields in a plasma-filled young universe makes protons and electrons in the plasma fly along the magnetic field lines and clump where the field is weak. Clumping made the protons and electrons recombine into hydrogen earlier than otherwise.
We find the rate of cosmic expansion by observing the CMB from recombination. Blobs in the young universe formed from sound waves in the primordial plasma. If recombination happened earlier, the blobs would be smaller. This implies a higher cosmic expansion rate.
The amount of primordial magnetism needed to address the Hubble tension also agrees with the blazar observations and the estimated size of initial fields needed to grow the cosmic magnetic fields we see. It fits.

AR So much for dark energy!

 


NEON
Portrait of a Lady on Fire — director Céline Sciamma won awards for the movie at Cannes 2019.

Rejoin

Covid-19
EPA
Atlanta, Georgia

A. Merkel
Kanzlerin Merkel
Deutschland übernimmt die
EU-Ratspräsidentschaft

 

2020 July 3

White Power

Michelle Goldberg

President Trump tweeted "Thank you to the great people of The Villages" with a video showing a man in The Villages, an affluent Florida retirement community, shouting "White power!" at protesters from a golf cart bedecked with Trump signs.
People voted for Trump for reasons besides racism. But Trump seems to grasp that racism put him over the top. Apoplectic over plans to paint the words "Black Lives Matter" on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower, he called the slogan "a symbol of hate."
Republicans who complain that the president is undisciplined, that he can't adhere to a strategy, miss the point: Bigotry has always been the strategy.

 □

Boris Johnson's First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Boris Johnson is not a normal prime minister. It is painful to watch his slapdash boosterism. It is jarring to hear his ministers say they are proud of their achievements in the middle of a pandemic that has cost so many lives.
At three key moments during the pandemic, Johnson made the wrong decision. He failed to lock down quickly, he abandoned any effort to track and trace, and he failed to quarantine travellers from abroad until long after the virus had passed its peak. His reaction to these embarrassments has been to double down.
The NHS as Labour left it in 2010 was working well, meeting basic needs at low cost. Then the Lansley reforms of 2012 cut its funding. Directors of public health were no longer required to be doctors. The Regional Health Authorities were disbanded, replaced by a new central body called Public Health England. And responsibility for care homes was dumped on local authorities, which then had their central funding cut by 60%.
Since Brexit Day in January, the Brexit negotiations have been managed by a new Task Force Europe, led by David Frost, a Foreign Office diplomat who has always loathed the EU. His conversations with Michel Barnier have become openly bitter and recriminatory. Frost is backed up by contemptuous briefings from the Number Ten press office, again of an unprecedented rudeness.
Johnson has always wanted to leave the single market and the customs union and say goodbye to the European Court of Justice. Any deals are to be transient transactions, to be terminated when either side fancies. For Johnson, national sovereignty trumps commerce every time.
The first outing for Global Britain is to pick a fight with China. Whether expelling Huawei from the UK 5G system or saving Hong Kong, Johnson seems increasingly inclined to copy the prickly isolationism of Donald Trump.
Johnson is also shoring up his power at home. He has a secure hold on the Conservative party after purging his own MPs and compelling all 650 of his parliamentary candidates to sign up to his Brexit policy. Yet he shows no visible interest in broadening his party in the country.
These months have shown us a government and a prime minister of unique incompetence, deceitful and panicky, and often inattentive to essential business. Yet after the epidemic, the UK will still have the same government and the same prime minister.

 

2020 July 2

American Nightmare

Edward Luce

A November nightmare: Donald Trump wins the electoral college by a clear margin. Joe Biden wins the popular vote by 6 million. Trump is reelected according to the rules.
In four presidential election games run by the Transition Integrity Project, 1−3 began with a narrow Biden victory and an inconclusive electoral college result. Trump threatened to use the national guard to end recounts in contested states and leveraged his office to gain the upper hand. In game 4, Biden clearly won the popular vote and the electoral college, but Trump contested the result.
America gives the loser another 10 weeks of power — nuclear button included — before the winner takes over. American democracy is heading for a stress test.

 □

Is Trump Toast?

Frank Bruni

In their final years in office, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush experienced a noticeable slide in popularity before losing their bids for reelection. Their polling numbers sank below 40% in May and June and pretty much stayed there through Election Day.
Donald Trump has just experienced the same dip. If Carter and Bush are harbingers, Trump is toast in November. Recent polls show him trailing Joe Biden by double digits.
Trump has responded by setting himself on fire. He has flamed with self-defeating provocations, kamikaze tantrums, and wild tweets. He has created his own icons: a white supremacist astride a golf cart in Florida and a pistol-toting Karen shouting at peaceful Black protesters in Missouri.
Trump now has little chance to change the dynamics of the presidential race. His approval rating since his inauguration has been consistently down between 35% and 45%. He has alienated everyone but the MAGA true believers.
The surprises are all cutting against Trump. We now learned he was informed about Russian bounties on American soldiers but didn't seem to care. Surprises will keep coming.

Mad, Bad, Dangerous
Richard North Patterson

By June 2016, Donald Trump had supplied us with overwhelming evidence of a pathology that disqualified him for the presidency. I said then that his wildly oscillating utterances and behavior met the clinical definition of narcissistic personality disorder.
Our president is sick. By the end of May 2020, Trump had made more than 19,000 false or misleading claims in a little over 1,200 days in office. He had manipulated the Justice Department, attacked the rule of law, refused to honor congressional subpoenas, consorted with authoritarian leaders, asserted unlimited power, and tried to get electoral assistance from foreign governments.
Hungry for attention, he subjects us to a constant stream of scurrilous tweets, false accusations, rank divisiveness, unhinged conspiracy theories, blatant racial innuendos, shameless denials of reality, reflexive self-pity, unbounded grandiosity, puerile insults to his enemies, and claims of superior expertise in areas where his abysmal ignorance is manifest. His sole concern is for himself.
Trump has even discovered the real victim of Covid-19: himself. In May, Gabriel Sherman reported Trump telling a confidant: "This is so unfair to me! Everything was going great. We were cruising to reelection!"
Trump's confidant to Sherman: "He lives in his own fucking world."

AR Roll on November.

 □

European Nightmare

Daniel Boffey, Lisa O'Carroll

The latest negotiations on an EU−UK trade and security deal have broken up early.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier: "Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement. However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain .. The EU expects .. its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement."
UK negotiator David Frost: "We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues .. The negotiations have .. underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues."

AR Frost = Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko, a.k.a. Mr. No.

 □

Is Sterling Toast?

Philip Stephens

Margaret Thatcher once said she would never allow "the Belgians" (the EU) to decide the value of the British pound. She was obliged to relent, and two years later sterling crashed out of the European exchange rate mechanism amid a tsunami of speculative selling.
The pound became an emblem of national sovereignty in the long Tory war with Brussels that led to the Brexit vote in 2016. Since then, its effective exchange rate has fallen by about 14%, and twin budget and current account deficits promise further trouble.
In 1945, about half of global trade was still transacted in sterling. From then on, a failed effort to defend British global prestige produced a series of politically costly devaluations. The devaluation in 1967 led to a final retreat of British forces from east of Suez.
Today, the sovereignty held dear by Brexiteers is an illusion. The appearance of national control does not change the facts of foreign exchange markets. The sterling exchange rate depends on the confidence of foreign investors in the UK.
Brexit will throw up new barriers to trade with Britain's most important market. This will press downward on economic growth and upward on the current account deficit. The government will soon be tempted to respond with a devaluation.
Boris Johnson pledges to turn Brexit into a platform to relaunch Global Britain. He talks big about carving out a new world role for the UK. But no one knows where the money will come from.

AR Long live the euro.

 

2020 July 1

BoJo's New Deal

Rafael Behr

Boris Johnson was propelled to power by the public anger he stoked over bureaucrats in Brussels. Now he pledges to tackle the great unresolved challenges of the last three decades with a "new deal" to reconstruct the UK.
The UK civil service machine is the new target. Civil service head Mark Sedwill is being pushed out and replaced as national security adviser by Brexiteer David Frost, whose only qualification for the job is obedience.
The Johnson junta reached its declared utopia too soon. For most voters, Brexit is done. There is nothing else in the Johnson agenda that can't be delivered by the British state as traditionally configured.
Johnson said he wanted Brexit so badly, he stamped his feet and got it for Christmas. But he cast the thing itself aside and sits in the empty box, brrm-brrming, beep-beeping excitedly, going nowhere.

Upbeat, Vague, Incoherent
John Crace

Boris Johnson rehashed one of his old campaign speeches. Only without the bits about Brexit, which was well and truly done now, given that this was the last day he could have asked the EU for an extension to the transition.
Franklin D Roosevelt had spent 40% of US GDP on huge job creation schemes, while Boris was stumping up 0.2% of UK GDP. Boris acted as if the money was new, but it had already been accounted for.
Boris listed the various infrastructure improvements he had in mind for schools, hospitals, roads, and housing. Admittedly, the French and Germans were well ahead of us in housebuilding, but we were leaving the EU.
Before he headed for the exit, Boris proposed a "clap for capitalists" night to thank those who had done so much to Make Britain Great Again. At least he got people talking about something upbeat.

AR Boris at his best, unfortunately.

 

Solitude
Yale University Press

99 days

Shadow State
Guardian Faber
Alexander Yakovenko was
Russia's ambassador to the UK
from 2011 to 2019. When he returned home, Vladimir
Putin made him a member of
the Order of Alexander Nevsky
and president of his Diplomatic
Academy. Yakovenko said
the state was rewarding him
for smashing the Brits:
"It will be a long time
before they rise again."

A. Duda
EPA
Polish presidential candidate
Andrzej Duda has the backing
of Donald Trump

 

2020 June 30

Solitude

Irina Dumitrescu

A significant part of humanity finds itself in the curious state of social isolation. Many of us live alone but tune into the pounding static of social media, news websites, television, and podcasts for a sense of connection to the world.
Silence feels as distant as it ever was. Zoom and Skype and Instagram live beam faces and voices into our rooms, but we miss the easy energy of a conversation in place. We are neither with one another nor alone with ourselves.
Stephen Batchelor sees solitude not as a state of mind but as a practice or a way of life. It is not isolation or alienation, though these are its shadow side. Rather, it is a way of caring for one's soul, of sheltering it from noise and agitation.
As befits a former monk, Batchelor describes a visit to a complex of monastic caves in Maharashtra, India, dating to the first century BCE: "Once the novelty wears off, you discover how seclusion magnifies the pressures and demands you feel."
He recalls a universal connection in the desire for ascetic experience: "Shaven-headed, ochre-robed mendicants sat cross-legged in these cells while Jesus spent forty days in the Judaean desert, fasting and being tempted by Satan."
Part of the practice of solitude lies not simply in being alone, but in forging connections with others. Look long and hard enough at yourself in isolation and suddenly you will see the rest of humanity staring back.

AR Nietzsche — the abyss.

 

2020 June 29

German EU Presidency

The Observer

Europe faces epic challenges. In Italy and Spain, unsustainable debt jeopardizes recovery. Addressing the climate emergency and implementing tough green targets risk delay. Europe must redefine its place in a world dominated by tension between the United States and China. The future EU trading relationship with the UK needs to be agreed quickly.
Germany will take over the rotating presidency of the EU this week. Extraordinary times demand clear leadership. German chancellor Angela Merkel appears determined to provide it. Her first priority will be to reach swift agreement on a €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund, to be financed by EU debt and distributed to member states as grants.
The prospect of pooling debt with poorer southern neighbors has always been anathema to the more prosperous member states. Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands will fight to water the plan down. Merkel warns that failure to take collective action to stabilize reeling EU economies would only encourage authoritarian forces.
During her 15-year stint as chancellor, Merkel has demonstrated a peerless ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Her assured handling of the epidemic has enhanced her authority and provided the political capital to take risks in a crisis presidency. For the next six months, Germany will be leading from the front.

AR The EU will be well governed, the UK not.

 

2020 June 28

Trump's War

Fintan O'Toole

Donald Trump imagines the past exists only as prelude to his own greatness. His demented solipsism shrink-fits US history to hug his own figure. The backdrop for this self-inflation is the failure of his administration to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump evoked Lincoln and Churchill as his ideal wartime leaders. After the protests began over the killing of George Floyd, Trump's lust for "overwhelming force" and "domination" over US citizens using "vicious dogs" and "ominous weapons" surfaced rapidly.
The unfinished business of the Civil War shapes both Floyd's death and the reaction to it. The killing is just one more episode in the aftermath of that war. Floyd is yet another victim in a long line of unarmed men, women, and children shot, lynched, and incarcerated.
On June 2, Trump tweeted: "SILENT MAJORITY!" Richard Nixon used the phrase in 1969 in relation to the Vietnam War, appealing to "the great silent majority of my fellow Americans" to oppose the antiwar movement. That war broke his presidency and led to Watergate.
The arrival on the streets of American cities of troops and trucks camouflaged for desert warfare is bringing home the war on terror. Trump aims to "designate ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization." This lets him target opponents of his regime for state violence.

AR Trump is floundering.

 □

Surviving Autocracy

Masha Gessen

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin share much. They both have a contempt for excellence, a hatred of government, and a way of campaigning against government.
Putin is less cynical. He has an idea that if he stepped away Russia would fall apart and so he has to carry this burden. For his labors he deserves to have the wealth, but he is doing it for his country.
Trump doesn't have that delusion. It's all power and money in their purest form. You could dig as deep as you want, you would never find a shred of responsibility.
Americans think about US institutions as a kind of religion. They have faith in the wisdom of the founding fathers who wrote the sacred words for the perfect system. But US institutions depend on the good faith of the people running them to fulfil their purpose. When someone like Trump becomes president, they become vulnerable.
America right now is several steps on from outrage. If it is sustained, then I think we are in a revolutionary moment. The protesters are calling for an American reinvention, protesting for a more perfect union.

AR Putin is smarter.

 □

Quantum Mechanics

Bob Henderson

Angelo Bassi thinks standard quantum mechanics has something wrong with it. His research is focused on an objective collapse model.
The Schrödinger equation describes a wave function with no obvious meaning. The theory predicts what scientists may see at the instant of observation, when the wave function's latent possibilities seem to collapse to one outcome. The act of observation is posited to trigger the collapse.
Objective collapse models delete the references to observation and replace them with a new term added to the Schrödinger equation. By inducing objective collapse, the new term takes the theory from describing what observers see to describing the world as it is (in theory).
For Bassi, particles are replaced by gelatinous blobs that can spread out in space, split and recombine. When one blob encounters a crowd of others, it reacts by quickly shrinking to a point: "It's like an octopus that when you touch them: Whoop!"
If objective collapse were to be confirmed, the orthodox belief that the laws of physics must reference us in them will lose its main motivation. But the deviations that collapse models predict from orthodoxy are so tiny that no feasible experiment can detect them.
For objective collapse models to work, the noise of collapse must be louder than some level. The gap between the minimum and the maximum set by vibration-detection experiments is a measure of how far we have to go. It remains about 10 orders of magnitude wide.
Bassi led the effort to win a €4.4 million EU grant for testing the large-scale limit of quantum mechanics (TEQ), starting in 2021.

AR I'm skeptical.

 

2020 June 27

Europe

Angela Merkel

Europe is not yet sufficiently resistant to crises. In the euro crisis, we lacked the tools for an appropriate response. The movements of refugees in 2015 showed up the deficiencies of the EU asylum system.
Now the coronavirus pandemic is confronting us with a challenge of unprecedented dimensions. In this extraordinary situation, I rely on EU member states having a strong interest in the things that unite us. Europe needs to set a good example.
Germany must engage in an extraordinary act of solidarity. The recovery fund cannot solve all of Europe's problems. But for Europe to survive, its economy needs to survive.
To change fundamental aspects of the way the EU budget is managed, we would have to amend the treaties. I am sure this will be discussed in the years ahead, but that should be done cautiously. In the current situation, we have to respond quickly to the pandemic.
We have not yet proved that the liberal system will win the day. The hallmark of democracy is that any opposition must have a fair chance of returning to government. An opposition must be guaranteed a clear set of rights.
European law has precedence over national law. The essence of the European Union lies in the member states transferring powers. But friction can occur in the borderland between the spheres of jurisdiction of national and European law.
We plan to hold a summit with China to advance EU-Chinese relations. We should develop a joint European policy that reflects our interests and values. Respect for human rights and the rule of law need to be addressed openly.
China has become a global player. That makes us partners in economic cooperation and combating climate change, but also competitors with very different political systems. Not to talk to each other would certainly be a bad idea.
Boris Johnson and the British government want to define what relationship to have with the EU after the UK leaves. They will then have to live with the consequences. If Britain does not want to have rules on the environment and the labour market or social standards that compare with those of the EU, our relations will be less close.
We believe that NATO is of great value to each of its members. We in Germany know we have to spend more on defence and will continue to enhance our military capabilities. American troops in Germany help to protect not only the European part of NATO but also American interests.
There are compelling reasons to remain committed to a transatlantic defence community and our shared nuclear umbrella. On the other hand, there are good reasons to keep engaging in constructive dialog with Russia. I will continue to strive for cooperation.

AR Britain needs a Merkel (not a Churchill or a Thatcher or a Bodger).

 

2020 June 26

Mathematical Beauty

Robbert Dijkgraaf

Mathematics can be beautiful. Roughly speaking, mathematical beauty can come in one of two forms, generic or exceptional. Mathematicians tend to come in these two flavors.
The first variant is reflected in a sense of wonder at the formal structures and patterns. Consider the infinite row of natural numbers on the real line, or the sequence of Euclidean spaces of increasing dimensions, or the rigor and precision of formal logic. These structures are powerful, useful, and beautiful.
But some mathematicians find it tough to get truly excited by the concept of a vector space in n dimensions, or a continuous function on the real line. To appreciate these ideas is to appreciate a form of abstraction, and this can feel cold and formal.
The second form of mathematical beauty concerns the exceptions to the rules. These are the curiosities, the one-offs. This beauty is exotic, quaint, intimate, and quite subjective.
The dodecahedron is one of the five perfectly symmetric solids but is considered exceptional because it has no higher-dimensional analogs.
The monster is the largest exceptional building block out of which all symmetry groups can be constructed and can only be visualized in a space of 196 883 dimensions.
Both types of beauty have charmed mathematicians over the years and led to many advances. Abstraction is an obviously powerful tool. The fascination with exceptions has been a productive strategy too.
Isaac Newton explained the planetary orbits based on his universal theory of gravity. He showed how all motions in the heavens were versions of circles, ellipses, hyperbolas and parabolas. The beauty lay in the abstract laws, not the specific solutions.
This is a lesson that physicists, and scientists generally, have learned many times over. Every time, they discovered beauty in the abstract structures underlying physical phenomena.

AR I'm more a lover of the abstract kind of mathematical beauty.

 □

The Mass Gap

Dennis Overbye

About 780 million years ago, a stellar corpse too heavy to be a neutron star but not heavy enough to be a black hole was eaten by a black hole with a mass of 23 ⦿, to leave a black hole of 25 ⦿.
The event was detected via gravitational waves by the international LIGO-Virgo collaboration. The victim had a mass of 2.6 ⦿, above the limit of 2.5 ⦿ for a neutron star but below the observed limit of about 5 ⦿ for a black hole.
Astrophysicist Vicky Kalogera: "We've been waiting decades to solve this mystery. We don't know if this object is the heaviest known neutron star or the lightest known black hole, but either way it breaks a record."
Astrophysicist Daniel Holz: "It's a win-win! Lots of theorists are now sharpening their pencils to try to explain what we've seen."

AR I'm eager to see the answer.

 

RAF Voyager
PA
The new paint job on the RAF Voyager aircraft used by the royal family and the prime minister cost almost £1 million.
Downing Street said the formerly military grey Airbus A330 was repainted to "better represent" the UK abroad.

33C

Water shoes
MERRELL
Water Shoes
"Footwear connects you to the
Earth .. Freeing your feet can
open up parts of your mind."
Mark Thatcher

Trump
Trump after Tulsa

VW Polo
VW
I just bought a Polo

Stephen Wolfram
Stephen Wolfram

 

2020 June 25

Albion, Brexit, Corona

Peter Müller, Michael Sauga, Jörg Schindler

Boris Johnson has ruled out another extension of the Brexit transition period. Unresolved issues include the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, future collaboration on foreign and security policies, and how much cod Danish and French fishermen may harvest from British waters. London and Brussels are further apart than ever.
A no-deal Brexit could cut UK growth in 2021 by around 7%. Th resulting slump would add to the pandemic recession as another hard blow for the economy.
When Johnson signed the exit treaty with the EU last fall, he made big concessions on the most controversial issue. The political declaration said the UK would uphold the common high standards applicable at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, the environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters.
Johnson is now taking a hard line with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. He told her his election manifesto promised a "true" Brexit.
UK chief negotiator David Frost has repeatedly strained the goodwill of the EU with his scattered provocations. Conservative hardliners could attempt to hide the dislocations caused by Brexit behind the more dramatic devastation caused by the pandemic.
The British economy is suffering under the effects of the pandemic. Even though global supply chains have remained intact and traffic through Dover has been processed as quickly as ever, the UK lost 20% of its output in April.
Johnson's supporters say the UK will be able to pick up the slack left behind by a sluggish EU. But Johnson does not have enough support for his proposed US trade agreement. So far, London has signed deals with over 20 countries and trading blocs, all based on current EU regulations.
Time is running out. The idea of producing a paper of several hundred pages at a dramatically staged EU summit in October is completely unrealistic. It would then need to be translated into all official EU languages and ratified by the European Parliament.
Kiel Institute for the World Economy president Gabriel Felbermayr: "Great Britain is the largest European economy after Germany .. No deal would be the worst outcome for everyone."

AR I see the Brexiteers as criminals.

 □

Germany 1, Britain 0

Martin Kettle

Britain and Germany are both big and prosperous northern European countries, with Germany a bit bigger and a bit more prosperous. But that does not come close to explaining the gulf between their respective performances in the face of Covid-19.
By 23 June, Britain had sustained more than 300 000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, compared with fewer than 200 000 in Germany. In Britain, more than 42 000 people had died from the virus. In Germany, there were fewer than 9 000 deaths. In Britain, the current death rate per 100 000 people stands at above 60. In Germany, the rate is below 11.
German health spending has risen in real terms for most of the last 20 years. Contact tracing was well developed across the Germany and swung into action right away. Germany had 28 000 intensive care beds, compared with 4 000 in the UK. Britain abandoned mass testing in March, when Germany did 160 000 tests a week, rising to 360 000 in May.
The UK Treasury response, in the form of furloughing, business loans, and tax holidays, was good. But Germany has had a more generous furloughing scheme in place for years. It boosted the support in March and unveiled a further recovery package in June.
Germany is not perfect, and German prosperity has taken a big hit. Johnson's government scorns suggestions it has anything to learn from the German model. But it has.

AR Learn from Germany.

 

2020 June 24

Brexit Vote: 4 Years On

Jonathan Lis

The UK government is unleashing an information blitz to prepare business and consumers for the end of the Brexit transition period. A government promising to deliver freedom is treating it as a declaration of war.
Until February 2020, the June 2016 referendum consumed the national landscape. It all but reset the UK to year zero. A narrative of purification would attempt to expunge all trace of Europe from the British body politic.
Brexiteers used to promise that nobody would threaten the UK place in the single market. Before the referendum, Boris Johnson declared he would want to stay in it. Tories considered participation axiomatic.
Remaining in the single market is now taboo. The people who used to promote it now advocate no deal at all, and not once admit the inconsistency. What was once unthinkable is now inevitable and even desirable.
The EU is puzzled that Britain does not seek participation in its foreign policy structures. The UK government parades its global credentials, yet it is retreating not just from Europe but from the rest of the world too.
The transition deadline is nigh. Six months to conclude, ratify, and apply a trade deal is close to impossible. The transition was intended for businesses to adjust to the changes after a deal. But there is no deal.
Brexit is a campaign waged by the British government on its own people.

AR Brexit is a high crime.

 

2020 June 23

Trump After Tulsa

Stephen Collinson

President Donald Trump spent the weekend seething about the disappointing crowd for his comeback event in Oklahoma on Saturday night. Eight staffers and two secret service agents at the event are now positive for the coronavirus.
His decision to go ahead with an indoor rally that may have turned into a super-spreader event was risky. The virus is having a disastrous impact on his Great American Comeback narrative.
Trump then dug his hole deeper in a TV interview by calling "semi-tongue in cheek" his claim that the problem is not that the virus is so widespread but that testing keeps showing how deeply it has penetrated in the community.
His team wants to rebound after Saturday's embarrassment by considering smaller venues or outdoor locations for Trump events. Limits on campaigning would be intolerable for Trump.
Trump still has a tight hold on Republican voters. Fox News said his return to the trail secured its biggest Saturday night TV audience in its history.
Trump hoped the Tulsa rally would send a signal that the worst of the pandemic was over, and that America is on the comeback trail. Instead, it suggested even his core supporters are wary.
Trump's response after 48 hours was to attack Joe Biden and the Democrats and to tweet about his fear that mail-in voting will lead to massive fraud and foreign interference in November's election.
Joe Biden: "Two nights ago, in his diatribe, he told them to stop testing because the numbers were going up .. I mean, my God."

AR Time to go, Trump.

 

2020 June 22

The Nuclear Button

William J. Perry, Tom Z. Collina

In 1945, President Harry Truman was shown the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and determined not to use the atomic bomb again. To keep it out of military hands, he declared that no more atomic bombs could be dropped unless the president authorized it.
Today, President Donald Trump has the absolute authority to start a nuclear war. Obama administration US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes: "There is nothing stopping a nuclear war except for Donald Trump's brain."
We need to:
 Deny the president sole authority for first use and require he share it with a group in Congress
 Declare the United States will never start a nuclear war but only use the bomb in retaliation
 Retire missiles that could force a quick decision and ensure deterrence by survivable weapons
We can retire the nuclear button. No one should have the unchecked power to destroy the world.

AR Action item for 2021.

 □

UK Failing on Climate Crisis

Robin McKie

In its annual progress report, the UK Committee on Climate Change will cite government failures to tackle the threats posed by climate change. Committee chairman Lord Deben: "The whole thing is run by the government like a Dad's Army."
The committee will recommend:
 Enforcing strict environmental conditions for corporate bailouts made during the pandemic crisis
 Improving broadband provision and cycling routes to reduce car use as people return to work
 Considering a new tax on fossil fuels [No! — AR]
 Introducing policies on energy efficiency in buildings, planting more trees, and protecting peatland
GRICCE policy director Bob Ward: "The UK is due to host the critical UN climate change summit next year, but its credibility as a climate leader is now under threat."

AR Make cleaner cars.

 □

UK Failing on Good Governance

Dan Hodges

Conservative MPs fear the prime minister has lost his grip and the government has lost its way. Some are asking whether Boris Johnson may have to be replaced.
A minister: "I've been in meetings with him and I've been surprised at the way he didn't seem to have a feel for what was driving the agenda. Not so much a lack of a grasp of the detail, more the way an issue is playing out."
Another minister: "If you look at where a lot of the anger is coming from, it's from the right of the party. Being seen to surrender to the teaching unions. Faffing around over going to 1 m distancing. This is infuriating the sort of people Boris thought he could rely on."
Boris needs to get Britain out of lockdown. Instead, last week he wrote an article about statues and announced he was merging the Foreign Office and Department for International Development. His office said they were spending £900,000 on painting a union jack on his official aircraft.
A senior Tory: "Experienced MPs from all wings of the party are worried about the No 10 bunker being out of touch. And blue collar and One Nation Tories are all worried by the lack of feel for bread-and-butter doorstep issues."

AR Oust him and move on.

 

2020 June 21

Pandemics Broke the Roman Empire

John Gray

At the start of the second century CE, the Roman Empire spread to the Rhine, the Danube, the Euphrates, the Sahara, and Britannia. Four centuries later, the imperial domain was reduced to a Byzantine outpost ruling a few scattered territories from Constantinople. Western Europe broke up into warring Germanic kingdoms, and Islamic armies conquered much of what remained.
The fall of Rome may have been the biggest setback in all of human history. One casualty was the Stoic view that a virtuous and civilized way of life reflected a rational and harmonious cosmos.
A succession of pandemics broke this classical worldview. A plague that began in 165 CE and peaked around 180 led to thousands dying in Rome every day and to deaths across the empire running into millions. Marcus Aurelius fell back on the Stoic practice of living each day as his last.
Rome was again shaken by plague in the mid-third century. By the time of the catastrophic Justinian plague, the natural world had come to be seen as chaotic and antagonistic to humankind. This boosted the rise of Christianity.
The Earth didn't help. Small changes in the orbit of the planet, plus perturbations in its tilt and spin, changed the climate and disrupted the rhythms of human life. A cold snap lasting 150 years led to crop failures and famine.
Plagues entered Rome via far-flung trade networks and flea-ridden rats. Large populations crowded together in cities suffered tuberculosis, leprosy, and fevers. They caught infections from the ends of the Earth, thanks to the Roman experiment in globalization.
Rome was defeated by natural causes. Dense urban habitats and imperial networks of contacts made a new microbial environment. The Romans paved the ways for the plagues to overwhelm the empire.
Roman civilization did not collapse for lack of wisdom. But the Romans didn't know how pandemics worked or how the climate was changing. They didn't understand the double whammy that hit them.
Today, climate change and a pandemic have undermined our ruling worldview and shaken the modern faith that humankind can reshape the natural world as it pleases. They are lethal reminders of the inhumanity of the physical world.

AR Befriend physics and relearn humanity.

 

2020 Summer Solstice

Computation All The Way Down

Stephen Wolfram

Our universe is a simple structure. Elements and relations build into hypergraphs that evolve into multiway graphs and multiway causal graphs. From how the graphs work, we see what relativity is, what quantum mechanics is, and so on.
In our model, atoms of space knit together to form physical space. Rules describe how connected elements are transformed to elements connected in some other way. This connectivity of the elements behaves like space.
The idea that space and time should always be packaged together into a spacetime continuum is wrong. Time is the operation of computation in figuring out what the next state will be from previous states in the hypergraph. When you are an observer embedded within this hypergraph, you get a causal graph that represents space and time.
In our way of thinking, there are three levels of description that correspond to general relativity, quantum mechanics, and a third level, where all we know is which things are related to which other things. We can draw the third level as a hypergraph.
The underlying rules just say that some collection of elements that are related in a certain way are transformed to some other collection of elements related in some other way. The whole operation of the universe consists of just rerunning the basic rule a gazillion times.
In the limit, what happens satisfies Einstein's equations for general relativity. The next level is to apply these transformations to the hypergraph. You get a multiway graph that represents all possible updates. The graph reproduces the physics of quantum computing.
Einstein's equations say the curvature of space depends on the amount of energy momentum in space. In our multiway graph, the equations turn out to be exactly Feynman's path integral in quantum mechanics. The various paths that represent the possibilities in quantum mechanics are turned in this multiway space by the presence of energy momentum. In other words, the core of quantum mechanics is the same phenomenon as the core of classical general relativity.
Causal invariance is what makes it possible to say definite things. At every event, you can have an update event that corresponds to every possible rule you might apply. As an observer of the universe, you choose a frame in which you're only considering the path that corresponds to the application of one particular rule.
In quantum mechanics, we have entanglement. Branchial space is a map of entanglement space. Quantum measurement is looking at particular regions of branchial space in various ways.
Rulial space is the space of outcomes from all these different possible rules. It corresponds to the application of all possible underlying rules. Every conceivable universe is in it. But because of causal invariance and so on, in some sense they all do the same thing.
Within the space of all possible rules, one reference frame is our way of understanding the universe. We have a certain way of describing the universe based on how our physics has developed. Finding a fundamental theory for physics is finding a description of the physical world in the reference frame that we're used to dealing with. The description we come up with for the universe is as much a reflection of us and our way of thinking as of something fundamental about the universe.
Universal computation is the idea that you can get a single universal machine to compute anything you want to compute. The universe can be represented by a universal computer. We can find an underlying rule for the physical universe in which the operation of the universe is as inexorable as generating the digits of π.
In computation, there are limits to what a Turing machine can do. Ask a Turing machine to predict the infinite time result of running a Turing machine. Unless you have a way to speed it up, you could wait an infinite time for an answer. That question is going to look undecidable.
You can imagine having this hypercomputer that says the answer is 42. You can imagine it, but to have a fundamental theory of physics is to say our universe doesn't do hypercomputation.
Computational irreducibility is the idea that the only way to get the answer to a computation is just to run the computation. Within a computationally irreducible system, there are always pockets of computational reducibility. Most of physics as we know it is in a layer of computational reducibility.
The big transition to modern science was from using equations to describe how everything works to using programs and computation to do so. If we can do this for a fundamental theory of physics, we have computation all the way down.

AR I like this approach.

 

X-ray sky
J.Sanders/H.Brunner/eSASS/MPE/E.Churazov/M.Gilfanov/IKI/SRG/eROSITA
Color code: reds for 0.3−0.6 keV X-rays, greens for 0.6−1.0 keV, blues for 1.0−2.3 keV

Tim Tam
The Guardian
Boris touts cheaper Australian
cookies as Brexit bonus
(0:48)

Keine AfD

 

The X-ray Universe

BBC News

We now have an all-sky X-ray map of energetic events in the cosmos. The data comes from the German eRosita instrument mounted on the Russian Spektr-RG space telescope.
This mission was launched in July 2019, parked at a location 1.5 Gm from Earth, and declared operational in December. Its first all-sky data set was completed last week and records over a million X‑ray sources.
MPE Garching high-energy astrophysics head Kirpal Nandra: "That's actually pretty much the same number as had been detected in the whole history of X-ray astronomy going back 60 years. We've basically doubled the known sources in just six months."
The eRosita instrument will make further all-sky surveys over the coming years to refine and clean up its data, to look deeper into the cosmos, and perhaps to find clues about the nature of dark energy.

AR Good work, thanks to German cooperation with Russia.

 

2020 June 19

Britain After Brexit

Philip Stephens

The Johnson government says Global Britain will be a "world-beating" champion of free trade and decide its own policies for global challenges such as climate change.
Boris Johnson saw the pandemic as a chance for the UK to show what it can do. Britain was home to some of the best epidemiological scientists and research institutes, Britain had rehearsed for a pandemic in 2016 and stockpiled supplies, and the NHS would show the world how it was done.
Unhappily, Covid-19 did not pay attention to theoretical notions of sovereignty or to national borders. Britain's performance fighting the virus has been dismal, leaving it at the bottom of the league of comparable European states. Nor has the UK fared well economically. The OECD says it will suffer among the largest falls in GDP this year.
Johnson resisted an early move to lockdown, the scientists initially misread the speed with which the virus was spreading, and far too little was done to expand testing. The NHS carried the scars and shortages after a decade of austerity, the stockpiles had not been maintained, and top civil servants are better at making policy than at management and logistics. Insiders say Johnson's leadership through the crisis was shambolic.
Johnson and his colleagues promote an image of British capabilities steeped in nostalgia for past greatness rather than shaped by contemporary appraisal. As one British diplomat puts it: "There is just an assumption that we do these things so much better than our European neighbours."
Sovereignty may provide the notional freedom to act, but that is not the same as the capacity to achieve national goals. The sovereignty that lets Britain negotiate a bilateral trade deal with America will not prevent Washington from setting the terms. It means Britain will be on its own when trying to cut deals with more powerful partners.

AR Boris boosting Britain is a bust.

 □

No Alternative for Germany

Constanze Stelzenmüller

Four months ago, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer resigned as head of the CDU because a branch of her party had accepted AfD support. After entering the federal legislature in 2017, the AfD was the largest opposition party. It saw her resignation as a kind of victory.
Today, Angela Merkel is as popular as ever. The CDU is back to 40% in the polls and most Germans approve of her grand coalition. The AfD rating is down to 8% and its leaders are squabbling as the pandemic brings out the strengths of the scientist chancellor.
German authorities have begun to crack down on the AfD support networks on the extreme right. But the fight for German democracy is by no means won. The crisis unleashed by the coronavirus is an opportunity for both sides.

AR Sachlichkeit und Pragmatismus haben gewonnen.

 □

Future Circular Collider

Hannah Devlin

CERN scientists are asking what next after the LHC. They propose a Future Circular Collider with a 100 km tunnel to explore higher energies. But the FCC has a €20 billion price tag.
Capital from EU member states and other CERN participants such as the UK will be required. If the financial backing is secured to go ahead, it would not be operational until the 2040s.
At first, the FCC would collide electrons and positrons, then it would collide electrons with nuclei of lead atoms, and later it could smash protons together with an energy of 100 TeV. It would produce large numbers of Higgs bosons and study how they decay. Some theories suggest the Higgs may decay into dark matter particles.
Jon Butterworth: "With the LHC, we knew we'd either find the Higgs or break the Standard Model .. There is no equivalent scenario now. It's much more exploratory. It's definitely higher risk."
Sabine Hossenfelder: "On some level I find it irresponsible. Why don't we put the money into an international center for climate models or pandemic models?"

AR Sabine hat recht.

 □

The Search for Dark Matter

Quanta

A sensitive experimental search for dark matter has found something unexpected. Its results could fit the profile of a hypothetical particle called an axion.
The experiment is XENON1T and its result is an excess of electronic recoils in its detector, a sensor-lined tank of 3.2 Mg of pure xenon located deep beneath a mountain in Italy.
The XENON experiments were originally designed to seek weakly interacting massive particles. Any WIMPs traversing the detector should occasionally collide with a xenon nucleus, generating a flash of light. But after years of searching, no such nuclear recoils have been detected.
XENON researchers then used their experiment to search for other unknown particles that might pass through the detector and hit an electron. Many of these electronic recoils come from contaminants, but after years of refining the experiment, the researchers began to look for signals in the noise.
The team examined electronic recoils in early XENON1T data. They expected to see about 232 of these recoils but saw 285. They came up with three explanations:
1 Axions, particles similar to a photon but with a tiny mass, created in the Sun could explain the excess, although these axions would not be primordial dark matter.
2 Neutrinos might have large magnetic moments, which would make them scatter with electrons at an enhanced rate, explaining the surplus of electronic recoils.
3 Trace amounts of tritium in the xenon tank would decay to generate electronic recoils. Such contamination is possible.
Against 1, if the Sun creates axions, then all stars do. Axions would carry energy out of a star. In hot stars with high axion production, they would cool the stars more than is observed.
Against 2, neutrinos with large magnetic moments seem unlikely. Stars would produce them in large numbers, also cooling the stars more than is observed.
The XENONnT experiment is on track to collect new data later this year.

AR No case for axions here.

 

Red Arrows/Patrouile de France
REUTERS
The Red Arrows and the Patrouille de France fly over Paris on Thursday before flying over London
French president Emmanuel Macron held a meeting with UK prime minister Boris Johnson while visiting London on Thursday
to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle's BBC address to the French people from London in 1940.

Président Macron remet la Légion d'honneur à Londres
 

The Room

ESA
ESA
Solar Orbiter was only 75 Gm
from the Sun this week. After
this first perihelion, mission
scientists will test its science
instruments and telescopes.
The SO cruise phase will last
until November 2021. In the
science phase, perihelion
will be 42 Gm from the
solar surface.

Bozo
AFP
Bojo greets EU

Guide to the Galaxy

The likely number of com-
municating extraterrestrial
intelligent civilizations in our
galaxy is 36 (min 4, max 211)
and the nearest one is from
7 000 to 50 600 light years
away from us, too far
to phone home.

AR Hmm, I say 42.

BLM

Baden-Powell
LORD BADEN-POWELL

Clive of India
CLIVE OF INDIA

Jens Stoltenberg
EPA
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg:
"The rise of China is funda-
mentally shifting the
global balance of power ..
NATO does not see China
as the new enemy."

 

2020 June 18

Climate Crisis: Six Months

Fiona Harvey

The world has only six months to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a rebound in greenhouse gas emissions. International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol: "This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound."
Governments plan to spend $9 trillion globally this year on rescuing their economies from the corona crisis and shape the global economy for the next three years, when emissions must start to fall sharply and permanently to meet climate targets.

 □

John Bolton: The Room Where It Happened

The Guardian, The Times, The New York Times

At the G20 summit last summer in Osaka, Chinese president Xi Jinping told President Trump that political figures in the United States were trying to start a new cold war with China.
Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. He then turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, pleading with Xi to help him win. Xi said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years. Trump replied that people were saying the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him. Xi said the US had too many elections, and Trump nodded approvingly.
When Xi told Trump why he was building concentration camps to intern Uighur Muslims, Trump said he should go ahead. Trump thought it was exactly the right thing to do.
Trump was willing to halt criminal investigations as personal favors to dictators. When Turkish president Recep Erdoğan told him a Turkish firm under US investigation was innocent, Trump told him he would take care of it. He said the prosecutors were Obama people and he would replace them.
Trump intended to make headlines with a statement defending Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. A story about his daughter Ivanka using her personal email for government business was in the news at the time. Trump: "This will divert from Ivanka."
Intelligence briefings with the president were a waste of time, since much of the time was spent listening to Trump, rather than Trump listening to the briefers. He once asked if Finland was part of Russia. He said it would be "cool" to invade Venezuela.
Trump never tired of assailing allied leaders. At a NATO summit in 2018, he had decided to tell allies that the US would withdraw if they did not increase their defense spending.
In a meeting in 2018 with former UK prime minister Theresa May, a British official referred to the UK as a nuclear power, and Trump asked: "Oh, are you a nuclear power?" This was not said as a joke.
After a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2018, Trump said he was prepared to sign a substance-free communique, declare victory and then get out of town. He became consumed by the idea that US secretary of state Mike Pompeo deliver a signed copy of Elton John's Rocket Man CD to Kim Jong-un.
Trump used US aid to put pressure on Ukraine. He said he was against sending aid until all their materials related to Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden had been turned over. US attorney general William Barr said he was very worried about the appearances Trump was creating.

AR Trump has damaged America.

 

2020 June 17

Climate Crisis

Jonathan Watts

Worst-case global heating scenarios are more alarming when we factor in the role of clouds. New models show the climate is more sensitive to CO2 emissions than we thought.
The IPCC is compiling modeling results from multiple institutions for its 6th report. Since its last report, new models show not 3 K but 5 K in the amount of warming projected from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 over preindustrial levels.
Climate sensitivity above 5 K reduces the scope for human action to ameliorate global heating. Several leading research groups report worst-case projections above 5 K.
The role of clouds is uncertain. Previous IPCC reports assumed clouds have a neutral impact because warming and cooling effects cancel out. But models with finer resolution and advanced cloud microphysics show the net effect is warming.
The new sensitivity model was tested by assessing its accuracy in weather forecasting. It passed the test. The IPCC is expected to cite 5 K in its 6th report.

AR All the more reason to green the global economy faster.

 □

Europe and China

Luke McGee

The EU aims to manage its recovery from coronavirus, become a serious geopolitical player, strengthen the European economy, and act as a world leader on the climate crisis.
Brussels officials say expanding relations with China plays into each of these: Chinese engagement is needed to understand the coronavirus and learn the right lessons from the pandemic, Chinese wealth and willingness to invest can help to boost EU economies, and greening the Chinese economy is a key part of tackling the climate crisis.
By treading a careful path between China and America, Europe creates a unique role for itself on the international stage, giving it diplomatic autonomy from Washington.

AR This heralds a parting of the ways: WW3 (or WWV, depending on how you count) will be Eurasia versus the breakaway Anglo-American (Brexit−Trump) "Yukuza" libertarian capitalists — as I envision in ALBION.

 □

The Sick Man of Europe

Jörg Schindler

Boris Johnson, 55, is playing tennis and jogging. He thinks Covid-19 put him in intensive care because he was overweight. Now he wants to slim down.
But while his physical health is improving, his political health is sinking fast. Even party loyalists are wondering whether the Johnson of old has gone for good.
Last December, Johnson won an election victory that not even his fans expected: a big majority in parliament, the opposition smashed, and breakthrough in the battle for Brexit.
Then came the coronavirus. The British public sees a prime minister whose feckless style of government let the crisis run wild.
Brexit is now back on the front burner. Johnson wants to "put a tiger in the tank" of the deadlocked negotiations on a future trade agreement. But it's not even clear he still knows what he wants.
The corona crisis caught all governments around the world off guard. But hardly any leader has made such a mess of the past few months as Johnson. With more than 50 000 dead, the kingdom is the sad leader in Europe.
Johnson says he's proud of what he achieved, but almost no one else is. In a recent YouGov poll, citizens from seven European countries, including British ones, agreed that no nation was worse led in the crisis than the UK. Britain is the sick man of Europe.
Johnson presents a pitiful picture in parliament. He has curbed his old language but not yet found a new one. As a man who feeds on applause, he looks like a sad clown in the socially distanced Commons circus.
BoJo, it seems, has lost his mojo.

AR I wasn't impressed by BoJo a year ago and I'm not now.

 

2020 Bloomsday

UK vs EU

Financial Times

EU leaders warn Boris Johnson that there will be no trade deal between the UK and the EU unless he accepts a level playing field.
European Council president Charles Michel: "Ready to put a tiger in the tank but not to buy a pig in a poke. Level playing field is essential."
The EU is making demands on state aid, labor rights, and environmental law for a trade deal with the UK. Johnson says the EU did not do so for trade with Canada and Japan.
Talks this year have made little progress. UK sources say they want a deal by the end of the summer. EU diplomats expect crunch talks to begin in September.
The UK rejects demands for a level playing field, rejects EU demands that EU fishermen retain rights to fish in UK territorial waters, and rebuffs EU attempts to give the ECJ a role in disputes on a deal.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament president David Sassoli joined Michel in saying both sides must agree the principles behind a deal.
Joint statement: "The parties underlined their intention to work hard to deliver a relationship, which would work in the interests of the citizens of the Union and of the United Kingdom."

AR Tiger — tank — hard times.

 

2020 June 15

Trump vs US Military

Frank Bruni

President Trump pays lip service to military service, but his actions reveal a crude take on those who perform it. People in the armed services see this and are venting distaste.
Trump has been denounced by Marine Corps General James Mattis and reprimanded by Marine Corps General John Kelly, both of whom held top jobs in his administration.
Trump has been upbraided by Navy Admiral Mike Mullen and Air Force General Richard Myers, each of whom chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Bush 43.
The president sent troops to the southern US border in the fall of 2018 to repel an "invasion" of migrants. His complaints about NATO boil down to balance sheets. His supposed reluctance to send troops into foreign lands have given way to a readiness to have them engage in combat with their fellow Americans.
US troops bring heart, soul, and intellect to what they do. This is more than we can say for their commander in chief.

US Military in Asia
Financial Times

Ever since President Trump was elected, US allies in Asia have worried about whether his transactional approach to foreign policy would sideline their interests.
Asian allies worry that American commitment and capability seem less than in the past. China is using its clout in increasingly aggressive ways against its neighbors, raising alarm.
The allies credit the Trump administration for focusing on the challenge from China but question US reliability and see an erosion of US military supremacy. They see America failing to address the pandemic like a superpower.
Washington identifies Beijing as a strategic competitor. The US military now calls the Indo-Pacific its priority theater and is adjusting its posture to focus on China. But the US strategic approach to China aims only to protect the US people and way of life, to promote US prosperity, and to advance US influence.
Australia and Japan were disappointed by US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Allied Indo-Pacific strategy is regularly undercut by the economic nationalism of America First.
Traditional US allies could drift toward China if they conclude that Washington neither respects their economic interests nor protects their security.

AR Europeans take note: US domination of East Asia is waning.

 

2020 June 14

American Oligarchy

Robert Reich

Rich Americans lobby for tax cuts and fight off a wealth tax. As a result, poor Americans are denied world-class schools, first-class healthcare, and affordable housing.
Top CEOs resist a living wage and universal basic income. They don't want antitrust laws. They oppose solutions to problems that burden minorities. They get the laws they want and organize the system for their own benefit.
As long as racial animosity exists, Americans are less likely to look upward and see where the wealth and power has gone, less likely to notice that the market is rigged against them, less likely to unite against injustice.
The only way to remedy systemic injustice is to redistribute power. To do so, the vast majority need to join together. This is what the oligarchy fears most.

AR Brexiteers deserve contempt for sucking up to Trump America.

 □

White Racism

Melanie Phillips

Across the UK, monuments and war memorials are under threat. Statues of Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria have been defaced and other statues vandalized.
Following the toppling and dumping in Bristol harbour of the statue of slave trader and philanthropist Edward Colston, activists have drawn up a list of about 60 memorials to remove.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner released a picture of themselves supporting Black Lives Matter by taking a knee.
Oriel College Oxford has over entrance a statue of the colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Demonstrators chanted "Kneel, kneel, kneel" and a police officer went down on one knee.
People are kneeling in submission to a revolutionary movement that aims to overthrow white western society. Expect fights between thugs from right and left.

Winston Churchill
Max Hastings

Winston Churchill was born in 1874 and served as a young cavalry subaltern in India.
In WW2, most of those who worked closely with him admired his greatness. But they also saw an old man out of his time in his attitude to native peoples.
The 1943−44 Bengal famine killed some 3 million. Yet Churchill's cabinet denied requests for food deliveries. Indians were dying on the streets of Calcutta, while in its British clubs, members had access to unlimited bacon and eggs.
Churchill was a racist.

AR Racism is wrong.

 □

Britain Flounders

The Observer

Boris Johnson is losing. By any pertinent measure, Britain is being outdone by countries across Europe, most notably Germany.
The UK is likely to suffer the worst damage of any developed country, with a projected 2020 GDP fall of 11.5% amid crisis costs of £133 billion. German GDP is expected to fall 6.6%.
Britain is swapping a health emergency for an economic and social emergency. Lockdown led to a 20% slump in UK GDP in April. The damage to public finances may be irreparable.
Johnson should look to Europe. But his government still aims to end the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

Extend  Brexit Transition
PA Media

UK cabinet minister Michael Gove has told the EU that the UK will not ask for an extension to the Brexit transition period.
A survey shows public support for an extension to the transition period among two sample groups:
Group 1 was told the transition period for leaving the EU ends on 31 December: 54% were for an extension, 40% against.
Group 2 was told about no-deal Brexit delays in the supply of medicinal products: 65% were for an extension, 31% against.
Overall, 85% of people aged 18−24 support an extension.

AR Bozo must end this Brexit nonsense and get his act together.

 

2020 June 13

Chokeholds

Fox News

President Trump: "I think the concept of chokeholds sounds so innocent and so perfect."

New York Bans Chokeholds
The New York Times

New York has become one of the first states to ban the use of chokeholds by law enforcement and repealed a law that kept police disciplinary records secret in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bills three weeks after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis. New York City also identified $1 billion in cuts to the $6 billion police department budget.

AR New York right, Trump wrong.

 

2020 June 12

Lord Baden-Powell

The Times

Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole (BCP) council is removing a statue of Lord Baden-Powell from the Poole quayside following threats by opponents of his homophobia, racism, and support for Hitler.
The quayside statue of Lieutenant General Robert Baden-Powell, hero of the siege of Mafeking in 1900 and founder of the Boy Scouts in 1910, was installed in 2008. It faces Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, where Baden-Powell held his first scout camp and later lived in the castle.
BCP council leader Vikki Slade says the statue will be removed temporarily because it is in danger of being vandalised or dumped into the sea.
During the Third Reich, German ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop invited Baden-Powell to meet Hitler to talk about forming closer ties with the Hitler Youth. Baden-Powell: "I told him that I was fully in favour of anything that would bring better understanding between our nations."
Baden-Powell, 1939: "Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc."
Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East: "Simply expunging past connections from sight won't correct wrongs or help us better learn from our past."

AR As a boy in Poole, I too was a scout, with a proficiency badge for air spotting.

 □

Fast Radio Bursts

Quanta

On April 28, astronomers detected a fast radio burst (FRB) from an X-ray source in the Milky Way. For a brief moment the FRB was as bright as the radio emission from the Sun, confirming that the new FRB was like extragalactic FRBs.
We think magnetars emit FRBs. A magnetar is a rapidly spinning and highly magnetized neutron star. FRBs are strongly polarized and brief, so they come from a small object with a lot of energy.
A magnetar blasts out a flare of energy, much of it as electron-positron pairs. The flare can make an FRB in one of two ways:
1 The flare remains anchored to the crust of the star via magnetic field lines. As the crust moves, these magnetic fields twist and turn until they snap, releasing a coherent flash of radio waves.
2 The flare escapes the magnetosphere and plows into older debris surrounding the magnetar to cause a shock wave that compresses the plasma ahead of it and builds a magnetic field behind it. Electrons in the shock front gyrate along the field lines and emit another coherent radio flash as well as 100 000 times more energy in X-rays.
We can expect different types of magnetar to emit the many types of FRB we see.

AR Problem solved.

 

2020 June 11

Lord Vulture

William Dalrymple

Robert Clive established British rule in India. He came to be known as Lord Vulture.
Clive was hauled before parliament with calls to strip him of his peerage and his wealth. A select committee recommended that the vast sums of money he and his henchmen had appropriated be reimbursed. He symbolised the evil of the East India Company and died by his own hand in 1774.
Yet in the early 20th century, Lord Vulture was miraculously transformed into the heroic Clive of India. Today his statue stands outside the Foreign Office, just behind Downing Street, where it encourages Brexiteer fantasies of a Second Empire.
Most Brits never learn about the atrocities and exploitation behind the building of the colonial system. The British imperialists were an aggressively racist and expansionist force responsible for violence, injustice, and war crimes on every continent.
Indians have bitter memories of British rule. In 1600, Britain represented less than 2% of global GDP and India more than 20%, but at the peak of the Raj those figures were reversed. India was reduced to a symbol of famine and deprivation.
Removing the statue of Clive from the back of Downing Street would be wise.

AR Europeans need to unite to survive in a post-imperial world. The EU was their salvation until Brexit ruined it. A Second Empire is as mad as a Fourth Reich.

 

2020 June 10

Shame on Britain

Rafael Behr

The morning after Donald Trump's election in November 2016, a Conservative minister bounded up to me in Westminster to share his political prediction: "It'll be fine."
Michael Gove even compared Trump to George Washington. He cast Trump as a "force of nature" who did not merit the "scorn and condescension" of his UK critics.
Trump is a malignancy eating away at the authority of his office. Like any despot, he demands submission, then despises as weaklings those who submit. He despises the people who elected him and befouls American public administration.
If Trump is defeated in November, the last four years are nothing but a stain on transatlantic relations. If Trump stays, the only global role for Boris Johnson is dishevelled sidekick to a rogue superpower. Either way, there is a price to pay.

Government Ineptitude
Lynsey Hanley

Britain is trapped in lockdown purgatory. Yet throughout the pandemic, the UK government has treated a public health crisis as an exercise in political management.
We live in a lockdown twilight zone, where public life and private spirits wither while the idea of being able to go shopping in a car is presented as a return to normality.
We refuse to live like this, and we refuse to die like this. A better government would not be stumbling into an endless limbo that puts lives at risk and makes us miserable.

Disaster Capitalism
George Monbiot

Conservatives pledged not to compromise on high UK environmental protection, animal welfare, and food standards. The government is now proposing to let in US foods produced using dangerous, cruel, and disgusting means. EU rules set higher standards.
Conservatives pledged that in US trade talks the NHS was not on the table. Yet leaked trade documents reveal that the US negotiators want full market access to the NHS.
Tory extremists have long sought to rip down anything that stands in the way of the most vicious form of capitalism. The new trade bill allows the government to change the law on trade agreements without parliamentary approval. This is not democracy but dictatorship.
Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are tearing down the UK to leave a wasteland for the disaster capitalists funding the party. We must stop them.

Brexit Hangover
Tony Barber

The UK government has introduced a quarantine on international travelers, says it will not request an extension of the Brexit transition period, and presses on with US trade talks.
Boris Johnson is failing on three fronts. Lack of confidence in his handling of the pandemic outweighs confidence. Disapproval of his leadership is higher than approval. And the Conservative lead over Labour has fallen to only 3%. His hard line on Brexit is a blood pact with party activists.
The UK government is determined to seal a US trade deal. The price will be a tougher approach to China and a decisive break with the EU. Boris will pay the price.

AR Let the price be high.

 □

Representation Theory

Quanta

Representation theory represents complicated objects with simpler objects. Groups of things in a structured relationship with each other can be represented by matrices.
The six symmetries of an equilateral triangle form a group. They do so because you can apply any number of them to the triangle, in any order, and get the same result as you can by applying just one symmetry. Combining two symmetries is composition, which acts like multiplication.
The real numbers also form a group. The real numbers have an identity element, 1, and you can multiply any combination of real numbers, in any order, and still get a real number. The group of real numbers is closed under multiplication.
In linear algebra, vectors are defined by coordinates, which we can write in a matrix. Matrices define such linear transformations as stretches, reflections, rotations, shears, and identity. The algebra specifies how we can multiply, add, and subtract matrices.
Representation theory assigns a matrix to each element in a group according to certain rules. A collection of matrices that respect the rules is a representation of a group.
A representation is a simplified picture of a group. We can explore a group by seeing how it behaves under linear transformations. Almost all groups can be represented in multiple ways.
A character table summarizes information about the group. The rows refer to each of the different representations, and the columns refer to the matrices within them for the identity element and the generating elements in the group. The cells contain the trace of the matrices obtained by summing diagonal entries from upper left to lower right. The table provides a simplified picture of the group.
Representation theory is a central tool in algebra, topology, geometry, mathematical physics, and number theory.

AR My struggle with math goes on.

 

Minneapolis
Fox News
Minneapolis city police protecting the community

Merkel, Trump
NYT
Merkel, Trump, 2019

Spiegel
SPIEGEL

Nutshells
AR
Nutshell trilogy by A. Zee:
I still haven't read it.

Jim Peebles
⦿ Denise Applewhite
Jim Peebles shared the 2019
Nobel Prize in Physics for
his work in cosmology

 

2020 June 9

Defund Minneapolis Police

Fox News

The City of Minneapolis has pledged to defund the Minneapolis Police Department: "Today's court order will create immediate change for communities of color and Indigenous communities who have suffered generational pain and trauma as a result of systemic and institutional racism and long-standing problems in policing."

US police kill civilians at much higher rates than other countries

 □

Bodger Is Bottom

Daily Express

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is the least popular leader in the world, based on his response to the coronavirus pandemic, says a YouGov pool. Britons rate his leadership even lower than Americans rate Donald Trump. More than 50,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the UK.

AR If even the Daily Excrement says he's bottom, he's bottom!

 

2020 June 8

America vs Germany

Katrin Bennhold

Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Trump last week that she would not attend the G7 meeting he wanted to host in Washington this month. She cited the ongoing pandemic. He responded with a monologue about the G7, NATO, the WHO, and the pandemic.
An official: "It was not a nice call."
One week later, Germans learned that the United States planned to cut its troop presence in their country by more than a quarter. Some 9,500 soldiers are to leave within the next three months. There had been no warning, and there is still no official notification.
The episodes signal a breakdown in relations between the United States and Germany that officials have neither sought nor desired.
German Marshall Fund vice president Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff: "Merkel represents everything Trump loathes — globalism, multilateralism, international law. Trump aligns more with the well-known authoritarian leaders in the world."
American troops in Germany serve as a deterrent to Russia. By unilaterally withdrawing troops, Trump is hurting NATO and directly playing into Russian hands.
German foreign affairs committee chairman Norbert Röttgen: "It's all about him, it's not about a vision of the world, not about politics, it's about him, about his need for validation — and sometimes his need for revenge."

AR Trump and the Brexiteers have played into Putin's hands.

 □

Tell Trump "You're Fired"

Der Spiegel

Last Monday, Donald Trump emerged from a White House surrounded by angry protesters. He found no words to acknowledge the murder of George Floyd. Instead he stood in front of a church and raised a Bible in his hand.
On Tuesday night, military helicopters circled low above Washington to intimidate protesters and looters. National guardsmen in combat gear stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial. And then suddenly on Thursday a fence stood around the White House to protect the president from the people.
The United States is in a perfect storm. Since the beginning of March, the pandemic has killed more than 100,000 people, more than 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, millions of them have lost their health insurance too, and many parents can no longer feed their children. US inner cities are burning, with looting and rage on the streets, and large numbers of white Americans are joining the protests against racism.
Trump only made it into office because the US electoral system favors the predominantly white Midwest states. Democrat Joe Biden has a chance to win. But the chaotic electoral system in the United States gives Trump various ways to contest a Biden victory:
 What if Republicans impose an election day curfew in cities with many Democrat supporters?
 What if the election is down to the wire and Trump refuses to recognize a result in a swing state?
 What if it takes days to count postal votes, but Trump has already declared himself the winner?
 What if Trump even defies a verdict from the US Supreme Court?
The Secret Service would have to escort him from the Oval Office.

AR Try handcuffs and a gun to the head.

 □

End of Yukuza

Patrick Wintour

The UK-USA special relationship may end if Donald Trump wins a second term. If Joe Biden wins, Washington may view the EU rather than the UK as its primary partner. Following the US presidential election in November, UK diplomats are looking to form a broader alliance of democracies.
Former Conservative international development secretary Rory Stewart: "If Trump comes in for another four years that will be very challenging for the global system .. If we have to move away from the US, it will involve a much bigger shift in national security infrastructure than we have ever experienced."
Former head of M16 and former UK ambassador to the UN Sir John Sawers: "President Trump is the most difficult president for us to deal with. He does not really feel that sense of being part of that transatlantic community .. He does not really believe in American leadership in the world .. We will need to be binding closely together with our European partners."

AR Yes: Abandon Brexit.

 

2020 June 7

Symmetry and Spacetime

Quanta

Einstein's special theory of relativity led to the conclusion that the relationship between energy and mass is invariant. The energy-matter content of the universe is conserved.
The same is true, Einstein showed, for space and time. The relationship between space and time is invariant, even as space contracts and time dilates.
Maxwell's equations show that although the connection between electric and magnetic fields looks different in different frames of reference, the speed at which electromagnetic fields propagate through space is fixed.
Einstein said the speed of light sets the relationship between space and time. No matter how fast the observer is moving, the spacetime interval between two events is invariant.
Resistance to change becomes infinite at the speed of light. Since that resistance is inertia, and inertia is a measure of mass, the energy of motion is transformed into mass.
The special theory of relativity does not apply to accelerated motion. In his general theory, Einstein showed that gravitational acceleration reflects how massive objects curve spacetime.
Invariances soon took on a life of their own, leaping out from the symmetries of spacetime. Gauge invariances turned out to require the existence of lots of particles from W and Z bosons to gluons.
Gauge symmetries describe the internal structure of the system of particles in the Standard Model. They indicate all the ways we can shift, rotate, distort, and generally mess with the equations without varying anything important.
An idea closely related to symmetry is duality. Newfound dualities have revealed that a 3D world without gravity can be dual to a 4D world with gravity. These dualities show the number of dimensions is not invariant.
Certain dualities suggest that spacetime emerges from the connections between entangled quantum particles. The spacetime continuum may emerge as a secondary effect of more fundamental entanglement relationships.

AR I like the idea that spacetime is discrete, but if spacetime emerges from entanglement we can relax and contemplate a continuum.

 

2020 June 6

Our Universe

Jim Peebles

Our standard model of cosmology is that some 13.8 billion years ago the universe was in a hot, dense state and has been expanding and cooling ever since.
The clearest evidence for the big bang model is the cosmic microwave background (CMB). This sea of radiation that fills all of space is almost uniform, in thermal equilibrium. Its tiny variations of intensity across the sky are consistent with a model of an expanding big bang universe with dark matter and dark energy.
The CMB radiation is quite smooth, yet matter comes in great clumps. To explain how could matter have been pulled together without pulling the radiation with it, I proposed that most matter is dark matter that doesn't interact with normal baryonic matter except through gravity, or with radiation.
Astronomical evidence suggests that most of the mass on the outskirts of galaxies is not very luminous. If the visible matter were all that existed, the galaxies would fly apart, based on the speed at which they are rotating.
Particle physics has confirmed three families of leptons. If a fourth neutrino had a high enough mass, a sea of them left from the hot early universe would provide about the matter density required for the universe to be expanding at escape speed, when gravity is just enough to slow expansion down but never quite stop it.
The evidence suggests that the universe is expanding faster than escape speed. An average matter density small enough to allow this seems to call for reintroducing Einstein's cosmological constant with a tiny value. Also, the rate of expansion is growing over time, which has led us to rebrand the cosmological constant as dark energy.
Measurements of the variation in the temperature and polarisation of the CMB radiation across the sky yield tight constraints on the effects of dark energy and dark matter.
Most cosmologists think the model with dark matter and dark energy is on the right track. Yet the central mysteries of dark matter and dark energy remain.
There are other great challenges for modern cosmology, such as explaining precisely what happened at the big bang. Physics is incomplete, and cosmology is still a kludge of hypothetical components.

AR Kludges yes, but still good work.

 

I can't breathe
⦿ Andrea Fasani/EPA
Milan, Italy

Boogaloo Bois
INSIDER

Rosenheim
⦿ Manuel Nieberle
A test center in Rosenheim

Donald Trump
AP
"I am your president
of law and order."
Donald Trump

UK Parliament
UK Parliament

I can't breathe
AP

NASA/SpaceX
REUTERS
NASA and SpaceX launched
astronauts Robert Behnken
and Douglas Hurley in a Crew
Dragon capsule on a Falcon 9
rocket to the International
Space Station.

 

2020 June 5

American Freedom

Barack Obama

This country was founded on protest — it's called the American Revolution. Every step of progress in this country, every expansion of freedom, every expression of our deepest ideals has been won through efforts that made the status quo uncomfortable. And we should all be thankful for folks who are willing, in a peaceful, disciplined way, to be out there making a difference.

Trump Coup 2020
Sascha Lobo

Donald Trump is preparing a coup:
2016: "I will absolutely accept the result of this great and historic election — if I win!"
2017/18: Trump says the Mueller investigation is part of a Democrat plan for a coup.
2019: Democrats begin impeachment proceedings. It fails, but Trump says they were planning a coup against him.
April 2020: The Supreme Court refuses an extension to the postal voting deadline in Wisconsin.
May 2020: Trump repeatedly tweets that the election could be falsified in November.
June 2020: Trump threatens to deploy the US military against protesters. The national guard and the police are subordinate to state governors. But as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Trump can exercise power directly on the street. His fundamentalist "good versus bad" narrative is an end-time narrative of holy war.
November 2020: If he loses the election, Trump will accuse the media of spreading fake news, he will claim a deep state conspiracy, he will deploy the US military, and he will call the Supreme Court for support.

Boogaloo Bois
CNN

The Boogaloos confound officials who puzzle out the political sympathies of the agitators showing up to George Floyd rallies and walking around with assault rifles.
Some Boogaloo members identify as anarchists and others reject formal titles. Some espouse white supremacy while others reject it. But they like toting around guns in public and rally to the "boogaloo" cry — code for a new US civil war.
Known for sporting Hawaiian shirts and arriving at public protests heavily armed, the Boogaloo Bois are often associated with the far right. Most of the 125 or so Boogaloo groups on Facebook have sprung up since January.
Benjamin Ryan Teeter and a handful of other Boogaloo Bois went to Minneapolis to protect protesters. They stood sentry with firearms outside mom-and-pop shops, but in solidarity with the black community in opposition to police brutality.
Teeter: "Once people realize that we are on their side and we are here to protect them, everybody .. has been very happy to have us here."

AR Wild West gun law.

 □

Brexit Talks

Michael Clauss

A deal is possible. But the UK needs to be more realistic. It cannot have both full sovereignty and full access to the internal market. Brexit will get full EU attention in September and October.
So far, no real progress has been made in the negotiations. Both sides have been stating their positions. The main issues are future internal market access and the level playing field. Other issues are fish quotas and governance.
We hope to have a deal for the European summit in mid-October. We cannot leave it later because any deal has to be ratified by the European Parliament.

AR Clauss is Germany's ambassador in Brussels.

 

2020 June 4

Angry and Appalled

James Mattis

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.
We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation.
When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.
Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, DC, sets up a conflict — a false conflict — between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part.
The Nazi slogan for destroying us was: Divide and conquer. Our American answer is: In union there is strength. We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis — confident that we are better than our politics.

AR Long before he served as Trump's defense secretary, former marine general "Mad Dog" Mattis said: "If you fuck with me, I'll kill you."

 □

Germany Got Coronavirus Right

Guy Chazan

This April in Rosenheim, Walther Leonhard was given a new job as containment scout. He was soon at home and hitting the phones. He was the latest recruit into a German army for containing the coronavirus.
Germany has a government led by physicist Angela Merkel that avoided the policy zigzags seen elsewhere. On April 17, authorities announced that the pandemic was under control. By June 1, Germany had roughly 103 Covid-19 deaths per million inhabitants, compared with 579 for the UK.
In Rosenheim, the hospital increased the number of intensive care beds for coronavirus patients from 7 to 63, commandeered ventilators, merged wards, rebuilt clinics, and constructed isolation areas. Within a week, it had the first additional intensive care wing, and within the second week another. In the end, it was enough.
German health minister Jens Spahn: "There have been no austerity policies in our health service. Apart from a small dip in 2008−09, spending has been rising steadily every year for 15 years."
Germany now spends 12% of GDP on health. The system is uniform in terms of financial resources and the quality of care. It is also much more decentralized than the NHS.
In Rosenheim, a civil protection management team was formed to decide which patients were sent where, how to share out PPE, and where to create additional capacity. The team is still holding onto Walther Leonhard, but he has less to do these days. The streets are again filled with families.

AR I'd rather be living in Germany.

 

2020 June 3

US Fascist Dictatorship

David Smith

When fascism came to America, it was wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.
On Monday evening, Donald Trump, with four US flags behind him, threatened to send in the military against the American people, then crossed the road to pose for a photo outside a historic church while clutching a Bible. He was only able to get there after heavily armed police and horse-mounted national guardsmen fired teargas and rubber bullets to chase away peaceful protesters.
Democratic senator Ron Wyden: "The fascist speech Donald Trump just delivered verged on a declaration of war against American citizens."
Democratic senator Kamala Harris: "These are not the words of a president. They are the words of a dictator."
Trump tweeted: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."

US Evangelicals
Matthew Teague

"My whole family was flabbergasted," said Benjamin Horbowy, 37, who heads a local motorcycle club in Tallahassee, Florida. "My mother just shouted out, 'God give him strength! He's doing a Jericho walk!' .. and she started speaking in tongues. I haven't heard her speak in tongues in years."
Horbowy changed his Facebook profile photo to one of Trump outside St John's, with light shining from the Bible. "There's a Bible verse that says we shouldn't talk about evil things. We can just say, 'There's evil' and move on .. I believe this is a president who wears the full armor of God."

US Mayhem
Julian Borger

The Trump crackdown so far:
 More than a hundred thousand Americans are dead from a pandemic.
 Armored cars and troops are stationed outside Washington metro stations.
 Men in combat gear with sniper rifles take aim from a helicopter flying low over Washington.
 A military chopper flies low and blows back a crowd of demonstrators with its downwash.
 Peaceful protesters and black residents targeted for arbitrary arrest or police beatings or both.
The US defense secretary describes US cities as the "battlespace" and Trump rejoices in using "overwhelming force" to achieve "domination" over the citizenry.

US Racism
Paul Krugman

America is on the brink. Wealthy elites weaponized white racism to gain political power. They used it to pursue policies that enriched the already wealthy at workers' expense.
Trump's economic policies have been not populist but plutocratic. He has rammed through huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and tried to take health insurance away from poor and working-class families.
Trump has provided his base with cover for racial hostility. He is encouraging violence and talking about military solutions to protests. What will he do if he looks likely to lose in November?

AR As Justin Trudeau said, horror and consternation.

 □

UK Government

Financial Times

Potemkin Cabinet
Boris Johnson has been meeting with ministers via video during the lockdown and has no immediate plans to resume physical cabinet meetings in Number 10.
A minister: "There are clearly advantages to holding physical meetings, not least because you can talk to colleagues before and after cabinet."
In an era of social distancing, only 13 people can sit in the cabinet room at once. But the cabinet has 26 members as well as a secretary and other officials. During the crisis, Johnson has taken key decisions with his inner circle of four ministers.
A Tory official: "It's a Potemkin cabinet. The cabinet no longer takes decisions."

Virtual  Commons
MPs voted to scrap the UK virtual parliament on Tuesday. Other MPs wanted to extend the temporary online voting measures set up in the coronavirus lockdown. To stay 2 m apart, MPs stood in a 1 km queue for almost an hour for each vote. Some called the procedure an absurd waste of time.
Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg: "It is important for votes to be physical because we are coming here together as a single parliament and we are voting on things that have a major effect on people's lives."
Labour MP Ian Byrne: "The utter madness of this charade is that as well as putting lives at risk, it may result in a democratic process which excludes hundreds of MPs shielding having the ability to participate."
A senior MP: "We don't have a cohesive group of MPs. There's a lot of new members and a lot who didn't spend their whole lives dreaming about politics and didn't expect to be here. There's also no cohesion that goes beyond getting Brexit done."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission condemns Rees-Mogg's plan.
EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath: "This will place at significant disadvantage MPs who are shielding or self-isolating .. It cannot be right for parliament to proceed without provision for remote participation, when many elected representatives cannot attend in person."

AR Does anyone seriously imagine this confusion in Westminster expresses any kind of democratic mandate to commit economic suicide on December 31?

 □

Modeling the Pandemic

Karl Friston

Conventional models used by epidemiologists essentially fit curves to historical data and then extrapolate those curves into the future. They use observable data.
Our approach borrows from physics and the work of Richard Feynman. It attempts to capture the mathematical structure of the phenomenon and to understand the causes. We call them generative models, because they contain enough to generate the data.
Epidemiologists today often use an SEIR model, which allocates people into four states: susceptible (S), exposed (E), infected (I), or recovered (R). But SEIR models fall apart when you think about the underlying causes of the data.
With conventional SEIR models, interventions and surveillance are perturbations. But these things are built into a generative model. We can predict not only numbers of cases and deaths but also societal and institutional responses.

AR Physics to the rescue.

 

2020 June 2

Stop Killing Us!

The New York Times

George Floyd died while restrained by a police officer in the middle of a Minneapolis street in daylight. His alleged offense was passing a counterfeit bill to buy a pack of cigarettes. Before him, Breonna Taylor was shot dead in her own apartment by officers who used a battering ram to burst through her front door.
The list of black Americans brutalized or killed by law enforcement officers, who rarely if ever face consequences for their actions, goes on and on, and on and on.
Thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to express a rage born of despair that their government has failed to provide the right to life, and to not be deprived of that life without due process of law. Not all of these protests have been peaceful.

"In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. As long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again."
Martin Luther King Jr, 1967

AR The latest riots are President Trump's most shameful legacy.

 □

Brexit Nightmare

Luke McGee

June is a make or break month for Brexit. The UK formally left the EU on January 31. It is now in a transition period where it still obeys EU rules in exchange for business as usual in key areas. The transition period creates a space to negotiate a future relationship. But it ends on December 31 and both sides say the negotiations are not going well. The next round of virtual talks begins today.

UK−EU Negotiations
Michel Barnier

We have a joint responsibility to do everything we can to reach an agreement. What I am hearing publicly and privately is that the UK does not want to ask for and to talk about an extension. We need to clarify that by the end of June.

Johnson Weak
Nick Cohen

Covid-19 and Brexit add up to a double whammy. The UK looks doomed to leave the EU without a deal or with a minimal FTA. With an FTA, the UK will lose £40 billion a year; without, £60 billion.
If Boris Johnson were to ask the EU for an extension to the trade talks because of the pandemic, the majority of the public would understand. But the extremists would not. For them, prolonging the talks means prolonging the vassalage. Any decent deal to protect the economy would mean carrying on paying and accepting EU regulations.
Johnson has not prepared his supporters for the costs of compromise. Hardcore Brexiteers would accuse him of betrayal if he follows the national interest. Johnson is too weak to face up to them.

Expect No Deal
John Keiger

Business is preparing for a no-deal Brexit. The coronavirus crisis has led the EU to suspend its state aid and competition rules, so EU insistence on a level playing field rules out a deal. And the UK fears having to fund the €750 billion bail-out and debt mutualization package.

AR Brexit is Boris Johnson's shameful legacy.

 

2020 June 1

Energy and Entropy

Quanta

Black holes offer clues about quantum gravity. Quantum fluctuations at the surfaces of black holes cause them to evaporate and shrink as they radiate heat.
Black holes become electrically charged when charged particles fall into them. They have an extremal limit where they store as much electric charge as possible for their size. When a charged black hole evaporates and shrinks, it will eventually reach this extremal limit.
Combining Einstein's gravity equations and Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism, we find that a black hole's charge Q can never exceed its mass M when both are expressed in the same fundamental units.
Together, M and Q determine the radius of the event horizon: Q creates an inner horizon behind the event horizon, and as Q increases, the inner horizon expands and the event horizon contracts until, at Q = M, the two horizons coincide.
If Q increased further, the radius of the event horizon would no longer be real. For a black hole with Q = M to split into two smaller black holes, conservation of energy and charge require that one of the holes have Q > M, which is impossible.
At smaller scales, the quantum mechanical properties of gravity contribute corrections to the Einstein−Maxwell equations. The smaller the black hole, the more important the corrections become, causing the extremal limit to move farther and farther away from Q = M.
If the corrections are positive rather than negative, then small black holes can let Q > M, allowing big extremal black holes to decay. Since an object's charge Q is its sensitivity to any force other than gravity, and its mass M is its sensitivity to gravity, Q > M implies that gravity is the weakest force.
If gravity is the weakest force in the universe, objects with Q > M can exist. But this is no proof. The quantum gravity corrections might be negative.
The Bekenstein−Hawking law says a black hole's entropy is directly proportional to its surface area. But quantum gravitational corrections shift the entropy out of exact proportion. The corrections grow more significant the smaller the black hole.
If you modify the Einstein−Maxwell equations with a series of extra terms coming from short-distance effects and solve the new equations to calculate a corrected extremal limit, the corrections exactly match those to its entropy.
The corrections could in principle be either positive or negative. The entropy shift is positive in a large class of scenarios and models of quantum gravity. We guess quantum corrections lead to more entropy rather than less, and smaller black holes can let Q > M.
The weak gravity conjecture appears to hold in string theory. The thermodynamic relation between energy and entropy applies generally in nature.

AR This is really important.

 

The Eye of God
NASA, ESA, N. Smith, STScI/AURA
"The eye of God" — one of the best Hubble pictures

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